An Unworkable Marijuana Tax in Colorado

As legalization of marijuana proceeds in fits and starts, the Colorado Task Force Report would impose at tax at the producer level while mandating vertical integration — combining the producer and retailer functions — so that every transaction requires determination of an arm’s-length inter-company price.  That’s a recipe for chaos, involving the wishfully named arm’s-length method of guessing at tax pricing, a tool grown so feeble that it has turned the international tax schemes of the mightiest nations into laughingstocks.

[1]  How much was that product worth when the selling operation of the integrated company “acquired” it from the producing function?  At least this set-up will create jobs — for attorneys and accountants.

The Task Force is proposing a retail level tax in addition to the producer level tax mentioned in the Amendment 64 initiative.  That’s better, for a vertically integrated company.  The point to tax on a price basis is when there is a sale to an unrelated party – at an actual market price.  That happy tax measurement opportunity would also have been present if the Task Force had moved away from vertical integration.


[1] Cf. Charles I. Kingson, ‘‘The Great American Jobs Act Caper,’’ 58 Tax L. Rev. 327, 387 (2005) (‘‘Deciding how much one’s left hand contributes to one’s right may constitute a career, but not much of a life.’’).

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

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