Dolores residents and the town board on Monday considered allowing a retail marijuana shop in town during a workshop Monday attended by 40 people.
The town’s moratorium on retail marijuana sales expires Dec. 31.
Town officials gathered information from other towns that allow retail marijuana sales, including Mancos and Cortez. But some information presented was later clarified by Mancos Town Manager Heather Alvarez.
Mancos collects local and state sales tax from the three retail marijuana shops in town and charges an additional $3 transaction fee, also called an occupation tax, per purchase.
The transaction fee requires a public vote and was approved by Mancos voters in 2014. It authorizes the town to charge up to $10 per purchase.
But Alvarez disagreed with a report presented at the Dolores meeting that claims Mancos “breaks even” on retail marijuana sales. The report includes costs of two additional Mancos deputies.
Alvarez said tax revenues from marijuana sales benefit Mancos, and the money is earmarked for capital improvements.
“We have used that money to help pay for projects like paved roads and internet technology,” she said. “The additional deputies were needed because of increasing population, and not specifically because of marijuana crimes.”
Dolores Trustee James Biard said the cost of the deputies was included in the report because they were hired since Mancos allowed retail marijuana, and not necessarily because of crimes related to marijuana.
Alvarez said marijuana stores do require additional work from town staff to keep up with the codes, inspections and regulations. She said that if the Mancos Town Board approves an additional deputy for 2019, part of his or her duties would be liquor and marijuana code enforcement and oversight.
In 2017, the town of Mancos generated $195,000 in sales taxes and transaction fees from the two marijuana stores, up from $107,000 in 2016, Alvarez said.
At the Dolores meeting, a resident asked whether towns without marijuana stores benefited from a 15 percent state tax applied to all marijuana store sales in Colorado.
Shannon Gray, a marijuana communications specialist with the Colorado Department of Revenue, said they do. Towns or counties with retail marijuana shops receive 10 percent out of the 15 percent state sales tax on each purchase. The other 5 percent of state sales tax on marijuana are distributed to each year to Colorado schools, Gray said. That money is distributed in lump sum amounts to each school district, and is also is offered through BEST grants that must be applied for.
For example, Dolores School District RE-4A received a lump sum of $254,000 in 2017, and $257,000 in 2018 from marijuana sales taxes, according to school documents. Also a $120,000 grant from state marijuana taxes was awarded to Dolores for social workers and counselors, said secondary school Principal Jen Huffman.
In Cortez, sales taxes from marijuana sales generated $700,000 in 2017, said City Clerk Linda Smith. It was brought up at the Dolores meeting that if neighboring states legalized recreational retail marijuana, it could impact the market in Southwest Colorado.
During a public comment period, many Dolores residents spoke against allowing retail marijuana stores, and a few were more supportive. Concerns included intoxicated users in public, use in homes where children live, the potential that it could be a gateway to harder drugs, negative mental effects of the drug, and fears of increased crimes and black market sales.
Others were more supportive of allowing marijuana sales, saying the increase in sales taxes could benefit the town, that it is less problematic than alcohol for some, and that medical properties of marijuana have value.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said that since legalization of marijuana, his department has seen an increase in black market activity, and other marijuana-related crimes and problems, including driving under the influence and theft.