Colorado pot proposal faces another legal challenge

Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – A tax activist brought a legal challenge Monday against a proposal for the 2012 ballot that would make pot legal for recreational use in Colorado.

Douglas Bruce of Colorado Springs challenged the proposed constitutional amendment in a filing to the state Supreme Court. He argues the proposal to make pot legal for adults over 21 doesn’t properly say that it would raise taxes.

A proponent who brought the legalization proposal says he thought the amendment was clear that, if it’s approved, pot would face a 15 percent excise tax.

Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado said that a five-business-day window to challenge the proposal has lapsed. A state board charged with approving ballot language gave the proposal clearance last Wednesday, after settling an earlier challenge.

“They cleared us to start printing,” Vicente told The Associated Press on Monday. Legalization advocates are already at work collecting the 86,000 or so valid signatures needed to put the amendment on 2012 ballots.

A spokesman for the Colorado secretary of state said that because the state board last week tweaked the ballot language to remove a reference to alcohol that some found confusing, Bruce’s challenge may still be in order.

Bruce filed the challenge on a lunch break from an arraignment on a more immediate legal matter. Bruce is facing felony tax evasion charges in Denver District Court. Authorities say he failed to pay taxes on a charity of his. Bruce maintains he is innocent of the charge.

The marijuana proposal asks whether adults should be able to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, or six marijuana plants.

The measure states that recreational pot would be subject to state sales tax, plus an additional 15 percent excise tax, with the first $40 million a year set aside for schools. Proponents say they have no projection of how much tax revenue marijuana would produce, but they are trying to talk up pot’s potential to raise money. They’re calling their petition drive “Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.”

Bruce says the title of the ballot measure should include language in capital letters labeling it as a tax increase. Bruce is a former Republican state lawmaker who engineered the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits Colorado’s ability to tax and spend.

Bruce said he’d probably support marijuana for recreational use – if the ballot title is changed to mark it more clearly as a tax hike.

“I’m not trying to derail the marijuana people,” Bruce said.


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