Douglas County

Larkspur incomes could get high with pot tax

Proposed marijuana retail, excise tax on ballot; revenues over cap given to residents

By Virginia Grantier
Posted

Residents of Larkspur, population 100-plus, could start receiving roughly between $2,000 and $20,000 per year from the town just for living there.

That is, if voters OK allowing retail marijuana businesses and a 5 percent excise tax on sales, estimates a referendum organizer, James McVaney.

According to the referendum's proposed ordinance regarding the tax, the town could reap up to $45,000 the first year and then no more than an additional 3 percent above that, keeping it under the required TABOR cap.

But all revenue after that would go to residents, McVaney said.

Larkspur Mayor Gerry Been said the town council - which decided not to act on the proposed ordinances in a referendum organized by McVaney and Michelle Michelle Barhenn - was recently "forced to an election."

But Been said if that's what voters want "that's what I'm willing to do."

And he indicated the revenue possibilities are intriguing.

"You've got to look at the revenue possibilities, in my book," he said. "I'm staying neutral, but there's lots of possible revenue."

Voters will decide on the proposed ordinances - to approve retail marijuana regulations and approve the 5 percent excise tax - at an April 8 election.

In the past, the town hasn't been welcoming to marijuana operations. Been said the town voted down OK'ing medical marijuana dispensaries several years ago.

If approved, there would be no more than three retail shops allowed, according to the proposed ordinance's list of proposed regulations.

It states there will be "no more than one retail marijuana store licensed per 100 Larkspur residents and no more than three regardless of population."

McVaney said real estate is limited in the tiny town and there probably wouldn't be room for more.

Limiting space further, the proposed regulations require retail marijuana stores to be within Larkspur's commercially zoned areas. Also, the stores couldn't be "within 500 feet of a licensed child-care facility or 1,000 feet of any educational institution or school, college or university, either public or private."

McVaney, of McVaney & Associates, which is involved in increasing the industrial hemp market, is a Perry Park resident who assisted Larkspur resident Michelle Barhenn with the referendum effort.

Barhenn couldn't be reached for comment.

McVaney said his excise-tax reimbursement numbers for residents are based in part on Interstate 25 traffic numbers. He said about 70,000 vehicles daily pass near Larkspur. He said he expects at least 1 percent of I-25's traffic, 700 vehicles, would get off at Larkspur, each spending about $100 per marijuana transaction.

But he said that when the shops first open, he expects business to be much higher than that, especially since there is a lack of shops currently from El Paso County to south Denver.

McVaney couldn't be reached later for a follow-up interview to ask if he is interested in opening a shop.

If Larkspur voters OK this, it will be the only place in Douglas County that allows commercial marijuana businesses. After Amendment 64 passed in 2012 legalizing marijuana consumption, other local Douglas County governments, one after another, banned commercial operations.