Colorado tax rates set high and low records

Colorado’s nominal tax rate of 15 percent now yields DE FACTO a historically low tax of 60 cents a gram on flowers or bud, and a historically high rate of 17 cents a gram for trim or leaves.  

From the official Colorado web site, https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/AverageMarketRateFactSheet.pdf, we see the Average Market Rates that the 15-percent tax applies to:

“Beginning July 1, 2016 the Department will adjust the AMR to the following:

AMR as of January 1, 2015

AMR as of July 1, 2015

AMR as of January 1, 2016

AMR that will be effective as of July 1, 2016

Flower Rate ($/lb)

$2007

$1868

$1948

$1816

Trim Rate ($/lb)

$364

$370

$464

$505

Immature Plant Rate ($/EA)

$9

$8

$9

$10

Wet Whole Plant Rate ($/lb)

N/A

N/A

N/A

$209

Seed Rate ($/seed)

N/A

N/A

N/A

$2

That’s a big price boost for trim vis-à-vis smokeable bud, so the market seems to value concentrates, which typically use trim, more these days. Or maybe the price-measuring procedures are changing.  Note that price may reflect many factors other than potency.  In particular, there is an incentive to put bud into the trim pile, as explained here:  https://newrevenue.org/2014/09/22/rose-habib-on-the-bud-trim-line/.

Colorado periodically calculates AMRs based on actual market conditions, then notionally applies a 15-percent ad valorem tax to those AMRs.  That means that Colorado’s de facto wholesale per-gram marijuana taxes have just gone up, from 61 cents for potent bud, or flowers, and 10 cents for less valuable trim, or leaves, to 64 cents and 15 cents. (Pound-to-gram conversion below).

I have been predicting that marijuana prices will fall, writing, for instance:  “Later, the prohibition premium – the extra amount illegal sellers charge to compensate for risk of getting caught – will disappear. Then, as efficiency, amortization of startup costs, and economies of scale drive pre-tax prices down, price-based taxes will shrink proportionately. A percentage base may turn out to haunt drug policy uniquely. Low prices create availability of intoxicant that drug policy disfavors, at least for youth and for problem users.”

So where are those dropping prices I’ve been writing about? This reminds me of something I wrote about in 2011: “In 1933 hearings leading up to reimposition of taxes on alcohol after Prohibition, one witness said tax advocates who ‘know very little about this Business’ were ‘etherizing, futurizing, generalizing, and theorizing.’’’ I was warning that I had a lot to learn. I still do. But I still think prices will come down. Eventually.

Note the new category for wet whole plants, explained at https://newrevenue.org/2015/10/12/beyond-bud-trim/.

 

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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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