Snowmass Village officials plan to allocate marijuana tax revenue to mental health services

‘All sorts of opportunities’ to support mental health initiatives, town manager says

Snowmass Village officials plan to use last year’s revenue from a marijuana sales tax to support community mental health services in the future.

“We know that there’s a number of mental health issues and a number of community health issues that need to be addressed,” town manager Clint Kinney told members of the Snowmass Village Financial Advisory Board during a meeting Wednesday.

“There are all sorts of opportunities, all sorts of requests we get annually to help with mental health type initiatives through the community,” Kinney said. “And in our mind — at least policy-wise — we’ve now got a revenue source to help address what I would assume most people would agree is a need.“

Village voters overwhelmingly approved the tax in 2018, months before Town Council legalized pot sales in Snowmass and a year before the town got its first (and so far, only) marijuana retailer. But the initial ballot question on the sales tax didn’t specify a specific purpose for the funds: the revenue can go toward “general municipal government expenses as determined by Town Council,” according to election materials from 2018.

Instead of placing all of the marijuana tax into the town’s multipurpose general fund, the monies (along with revenue from the Pitkin County tobacco tax) will be allocated to a reserve account, according to town documents; Town Council approved that allocation when they OK’d the 2021 budget in December.

The intent to use marijuana sales tax revenue to support mental health services mirrors a program already in place with the Pitkin County tobacco tax that voters approved in 2019. The ballot measure included provisions to use the revenue for mental health and substance abuse prevention programs in addition to tax collection, licensing and enforcement initiatives.

Revenue generated in Snowmass Village from that county tobacco tax can go toward town-specific services, Kinney confirmed in an interview. The funds aren’t earmarked for county-wide programs.

Together, the marijuana and tobacco taxes generated $119,279.36 for the town in the first 11 months of 2020, with an average monthly tax revenue of $10,843.58, according to sales tax data released Jan. 14. (December numbers will be released in February.)

The town of Snowmass Village combines marijuana and tobacco sales tax revenue when reporting that data to the public, but tobacco accounts for a “vast majority” of the funds, Kinney told the board. (Because the town has only one marijuana retailer, breaking down the revenue in separate brackets would inadvertently disclose proprietary information about the business.)

Those funds could contribute to a number of initiatives in Snowmass Village, Kinney suggested.

Kinney floated several possible ideas at Wednesday’s Financial Advisory Board meeting: social services for residents in the town’s workforce housing, chipping in to a county service that sends a mental health care worker on some law enforcement calls, or supporting mental health organizations in the valley, Kinney told board members.

Those ideas, while possibilities, are not yet set in stone, he emphasized; town staff have not yet conducted a full evaluation of potential initiatives that the funds can support.

“We’re just starting, and I think the big policy decision to begin with was to identify this as a need, and we put the dollars aside,” Kinney said. “I don’t have a timeline on when we expect to kind of develop a plan of action with the money, but … our commitment to you is, we’re not going to spend it until we’ve got a good plan of action.”

Kinney confirmed in an interview that town officials are still in the early stages when it comes to determining the specifics of how the funds will be allocated but maintained that they plan to support mental health services.

“We like the direction we’re going,” Kinney said.