Pubdate: Fri, 22 Mar 2013
Source: Aspen Times, The  (CO)
Copyright: 2013 Aspen Times
Author: Roger Marolt
Column: Roger This


Maybe because he's a self-professed hardcore stoner for more than 30
years that legitimized him, but a guy wrote a guest piece in The
Denver Post the other day about the legalization of pot in Colorado
that explained in a few sentences what I haven't been able to say
clearly in about five years. He said it so calmly. He didn't waste
words. It was like an out-loud train of unconscious thought, but it
made sense to me, y'all. I wish I'd written down his name, but I
wasn't really motivated. No worries. Let me summarize what he said:
It's not going to work.

Think about why we voted to legalize weed. It wasn't because most of
us think smoking pot is a good, healthy, wholesome alternative to
clear lungs and thinking. The two biggest reasons we legalized the
stuff are, one, that we are hopelessly losing the war on drugs and
throwing away valuable resources on it, and, two, since people are
going to smoke it anyway, we might as well tax the crap out of it and
use the windfall to make better schools.

As for the taxing part, the stoner dude spoke from experience. He said
that a lot of people wonder why the number of marijuana dispensaries
in Colorado has dramatically declined since the legalization of pot.
It was no magical mystery to him. He said it was because, like he,
most potheads are buying product through their old familiar channels
on the black market. Why? As with all consumers, the three things
buyers consider most are price, convenience and quality. With pot, the
black-market stuff is just as good as the store-bought stuff, but it's
cheaper, and they'll bring it right to your car door.

Why is it cheaper? Pot sold out of a pot shop is subject to the same
price pressures as a Gucci sweater. Pot dealers have to pay rent,
utilities and insurance. They have to pay legal citizens at least the
minimum wage. They might even have to offer good health plans and
retirement accounts. They have to pony up for payroll taxes, sales
tax, income tax, property tax, plus the heavy sin tax that's going to
help our schools out. It's a heck of a lot cheaper to smuggle dope
across the borders and sell it out of a van down by the river.

If anything, illegal drug dealing got even cheaper with the new
legislation. Remember? Since it's legal, we aren't going to waste as
many resources on enforcement. Who's afraid of the big bad toothless
law in wolf's clothing now? Illegal dealers have to be breathing a
little easier, so to speak.

Where does that leave us? Since we ironically legalized pot for the
good of our children, it sure would be nice if we could collect that
tax revenue we were expecting. But, it sounds like most weed is still
bought on the sly and we don't have the legal will to crack down on

In order to collect the tax, then, we've got to hit the illegal
dealers where it really hurts. We have to strictly enforce the tax
laws! Go ahead and sell pot on the street, but you darn well better
pay the taxes due on it. There are a lot of interested parties that
need the bounty - city, county, state, the IRS - and don't forget our
school districts!

We have to go after these folks with the full force of the law,
though. This can't be a slap on the wrist or else nobody's going to
pay attention. You have to hit the tax scofflaws hard with big fines
and jail time; even for the petty offenders since that would otherwise
become the illegal dealers' loophole.

We'll have to put up walls at the borders, patrol the waterways and
search all the airplanes coming in. Once that dope gets into the
country duty-free, we've lost our best chance to collect the tax.
Yeah, I understand we'll need to have well-armed and trained
enforcement troops to do this; the non-taxpayers will be equally
loaded and ready for a fight. There's big money at stake. That's why
we voted for this!

Look, we lost the war on drugs. What a colossal waste of time and
resources. But, let's learn from it. We can't afford to lose this new
war on collecting taxes. Remember, this is for the kids!
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