Taos district officials heard concerns from local residents as they began finalizing local ordinances to create the state’s recreational cannabis industry. At the district commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday (August 3), Taoseños raised concerns about taxes, licenses and child protection in the community.
“I think it’s really important that we tax locally,” said Jennifer Ammann, a Taos resident. “I understand that the state of New Mexico will collect taxes and that some of it will flow back into the local communities.”
The Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA), passed by state legislature in April, will allow recreational use of cannabis by adults (21 years of age and older) throughout New Mexico. The CRA was passed along with the Cannabis Tax Act, which sets tax rates for state and county governments.
“If you look at the neighboring states where cannabis has been legal for a few years – Colorado and California – they allow up to 15 percent local taxation on top of state taxes,” Ammann said.
According to the CRA, New Mexico will impose an excise tax on all recreational cannabis sales and send 33.33 percent to the local jurisdictions where the sales are made. The remaining 66.67 percent go to the General Fund of the State.
The tax rate will be 12 percent – as soon as the sale starts on or before April 1, 2022. But the law will raise that rate by 1 percent every year from July 2025.
“If you look at Colorado, cannabis sales were $ 2 billion in 2020, which is ultimately a lot of money going back to the state and local communities,” Ammann said. “They use that for education and transport. And these are clearly areas in which we could use more money.”
Ammann went on to explain that many tourists who come to Taos County for winter ski tours and summer rafting trips from California and Colorado are already used to paying higher taxes on cannabis. “It reflects what you are already used to,” she said.
Cori Strife, a contract attorney for Taos County, responded, “At least in the Cannabis Regulation Act there really isn’t anything that deals with taxation other than stating that there is the Cannabis Tax Act, which is so new at this point that there is no specific regulation associated with the legal regulation. “
“So I’ve been keeping an eye on that to see if that gives us some kind of authority that we don’t currently have,” said Strife.
Another participant in the meeting raised the issue of public safety around recreational cannabis and children in the community.
“I just want to say how important it will be for us to educate youth in the community about the harms of cannabis use,” said Casandra Romero, a prevention worker at the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, a nonprofit who is responsible for people development.
“I would like to strongly encourage the county to use some of this tax to either create a campaign or program as there is a misconception about the safety of marijuana, especially among our youth,” said Romero.
She further stated that through her work with the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, she found that around 70 percent of high school students use cannabis.
“So there is already very little perception of risk. They think it’s medicine. They think it’s safe,” said Romero, who warned that marijuana was harmful to mental health, especially among teenagers and young adults.
“It used to be around 10-12 percent THC levels. Now we’re seeing over 80-90 percent THC levels in the way it’s made and grown,” she said.
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the main active ingredient in cannabis. Higher THC percentages lead to higher levels of intoxication in cannabis users.
Romero wants to dispel the misconception that cannabis poses a low risk. “This, like alcohol and any other drug, fits into that risk category,” she said while volunteering to help the county create a public notice to address the risk to children.
This story is one in a series related to the Cannabis Regulation Act.