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It’s official: Golden votes on rec marijuana sales, lodging tax in fall

When Golden voters receive their ballots this fall, they will be asked to weigh in on whether to bring recreational marijuana sales and a new lodging tax to Golden.

That’s because the Golden City Council voted unanimously on Aug. 10 to put three questions on the November ballot whose answers will determine the fate of those issues — at least for now.

Recreational marijuana

For recreational marijuana sales to begin in Golden, the city’s voters would have to vote yes on two separate but interrelated questions.

The first will ask whether the city should authorize what it describes as a “limited” number of retail marijuana stores within the city. The measure promises the number and location of those stores will be dictated by regulations the council would put into place following the passage of the measure.

The second question asks for the city to adopt a 6% sales tax on sales of retail marijuana and related products and accessories. That sales tax would be levied on top of existing state taxes on marijuana sales.

That question also states that the tax revenues will be spent on “any lawful municipal purpose, including public health programs and projects.”

However, on July 27, city council determined that those tax revenues would be used for programs related to overall efforts to ensure the physical and mental health of Golden residents, substance abuse education and counseling, regulatory enforcement of substances that harm health and addressing the harmful health impacts of food and housing insecurity.

A majority of voters will need to say yes to both questions for them to take effect.

While recreational marijuana sales were legalized in Colorado in a 2012 vote, the council placed a moratorium on sales in the city in 2014. Golden currently has one dispensary that sells only marijuana to licensed medical patients. That dispensary, Golden Alternative Medicine, is located just south of the intersection of I-70 and U.S. 6.

Golden Alternative Medicine has indicated to the city that it will seek to secure a license to sell recreational marijuana at its dispensary if voters approve the measure.

Throughout the monthslong process of considering the measure for the ballot, the council has repeatedly suggested that it would look to allow retail sales at Golden Alternative Medicine and a few other locations.

Ashley Close, the CEO of Golden Alternative Medicine, said in an email to the Golden Transcript that it is supportive of the city’s approach of requiring the voters to approve both the tax because it will ensure that the businesses are regulated rigorously and create a new revenue stream to help the city solve significant problems.

“We know from experience and as the only marijuana industry representative in Golden that the city can support additional stores and that those businesses will be tightly regulated and make positive impacts on the community, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional tax revenue each store will generate,” Close said.

City staff member Steve Glueck, who presented the measure language, said the council will ultimately be accountable to voters to follow through on those suggestions when it comes to determining how many dispensaries will be allowed in town if voters do greenlight sales. A PDF produced by the city states that the number of recreational dispensaries that are approved will probably be capped by spacing requirements and/or an overall numerical cap.

Councilman Casey Brown then offered the following thought on how many recreational dispensaries he currently feels comfortable with.

“I would feel pretty comfortable with at least one (license), no more than four, not in the downtown historic area and otherwise limited by geographic boundaries surrounding parks and other facilities,” he said. “I may fully change my mind but that’s what I am thinking about.”

Lodging tax

While voters will have to consider two questions about marijuana, the process to create a new lodging tax will be more straightforward.

Voters will simply be asked whether the city should adopt a 6% tax on the rental price of rooms at hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts and other short term rental properties. It defines a short-term rental property as one where stays are typically less than 30 days.

According to the language of the proposed measure, the revenues could be used by the city for “any lawful purpose.” However, for the first 10 years after the tax takes effect, the measure commits the city to using the revenues for just two purposes.

Some 80% of the revenues would be earmarked to fund projects the city says would facilitate enhanced quality of life in Golden, including traffic management improvements and expanding the city’s roster of parks.

The remaining 20% would be used for programs and projects that would address the impact of tourism on the city.

Golden’s lack of a lodging tax has long made it an outlier both among peer cities on the Front Range and nationwide. According to a document produced by the council, the proposed 6% tax would be about midrange of Front Range cities. Denver, Boulder, Thornton, Westminster and Wheat Ridge all have lodging taxes of between 7 and 10.75%.

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