Snowmass Town Council mulls pot sales tax | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Town Council mulls pot sales tax

Amid a town discussion Monday of whether to pose an additional sales tax on recreational marijuana in Snowmass, Mayor Markey Butler tried again to reverse the council's direction to move forward with pot shops in the village.

Snowmass Town Council on June 18 voted 3-2 for town staff to develop the regulatory scheme for allowing dispensaries and wording for a potential sales tax. Butler and Town Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk, both of whom argued that the Snowmass community should vote on the issue as a whole in the November election, were the dissenting votes.

At the following council meeting July 2, Butler requested her fellow elected officials reconsider its motion and again advocated for a town vote on the matter.

While the mayor had asked town staff to add another marijuana-related conversation to the July 2 council agenda, town spokesman Travis Elliot said, she was not at the meeting due to an emergency. Shenk and town councilman Bob Sirkus, who did not support a backward motion, reiterated Butler's concerns in her absence.

"I don't think anybody's really changed their position," Sirkus said at the meeting. "I think the direction to staff still stands."

Snowmass town councilmen Bill Madsen and Tom Goode echoed Sirkus' sentiment.

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"I feel like we're going with the community consensus," Madsen said.

At a work session Monday, the council was to discuss whether it should pose an additional sales tax on marijuana, which can only be implemented with voter approval.

While the state levies a 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales on recreational marijuana across all of its jurisdictions, some municipalities tack on an additional sales tax of as much as 5 percent.

An added marijuana sales tax could generate the town an additional $100,000 to $300,000 annually, Snowmass town spokesman Travis Elliot estimated.

Snowmass town attorney John Dresser pointed out the potential conflict in posing an additional sales tax: Two key considerations in the council's decision to move forward with pot shops in Snowmass are to address the loss of business to Aspen and lack of town revenue altogether; however, because the city of Aspen does not levy an additional sales tax on its dispensaries, it may not make sense financially to offer the same product at a higher, not competitive rate, he rationed.

"I don't know how you want to go (about) that," Dresser said, "but understand that in my mind, those are competing values."

The four elected officials (Shenk was absent) at the work session were divided on the issue, with Madsen and Butler supportive of an added sales tax and Goode and Sirkus opposed.

Madsen said he does not think that Snowmass visitors will be deterred from purchasing pot in the village by an extra $5 on a $100 purchase.

Butler urged her councilors to reconsider asking voters if they want pot shops, which became a moot point. She asked how many signatures are required to petition for a ballot question, to which town clerk Rhonda Coxon estimated about 190.

Snowmass Town Council will revisit the question of a sales tax at its next meeting in which all five elected officials will be present Aug. 6. Ballot language for the November election must be submitted to the Pitkin County clerk by Sept. 7.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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