In the House budget debate set to begin Thursday, a cash fund brimming with an enticing $117.7 million in marijuana sales tax money is sure to attract attention, as it did in Senate debate last week.
The fund has figured in talk at the Capitol ever since recreational weed sales began filling it steadily years ago — like a cookie jar on a high shelf stuffed with greenbacks, silently interrupting family conversations all day.
In a caucus meeting Wednesday in which House Democrats received updates and explanations from joint budget committee members and staff, the weed cash fund was a subject of curiosity.
“How much is even in that fund?” asked Rep. Tracy Kraft Tharpe, a Democrat from Arvada.
In response to questions, Joint Budget Committee staffers distributed a memo with details.
The cash fund is supposed to pay for costs tied to drug use and abuse — for education and treatment, for example. This year’s budget so far has appropriated $96.0 million. A floor battle broke out in the Senate over a proposal to use some of the money to boost the film industry in the state, a proposal voted down.
Read the memo in all its tantalizing detail right here (pdf). Among the highlights:
There remains $14.7 million in the fund left unallocated for this year’s budget.
Tax revenues tied to marijuana for fiscal year 2016-17 are projected to reach $187.2 million, an increase of $45.1 million from the previous year.
On page nine, the memo lists all of the bills so far this year that have passed out of at least one appropriations committee and that include funding from the marijuana cash fund.
Possible future actions proposed by staffers? One is to run a bill that would put more weed tax revenues into the state’s general fund, where it could be used unfettered. “If the full amount [of the 2.9 percent state sales tax on pot] were transferred, general fund appropriations could be increased by $36.3 million.”