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Opinion: Are we about to crush Colorado’s marijuana industry?

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Opinion: Are we about to crush Colorado’s marijuana industry?

Taxation without representation, a term colonists used to describe a population required to pay taxes to a government authority without having a say in that government’s policies, seems to be an ongoing theme for the cannabis industry over the last several months.

With a new president’s administration in office, a new 50-50 U.S. Senate and still a slight Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, I would have expected some movement forward for cannabis companies, however, it seems that the only focus as of late is on taxing, taxing and even more taxing the industry, making it riper than ever for the illicit market to take over years of hard work in making medicinal and recreational cannabis legal.

Let’s take a look at some prime examples of recent new proposals for imposing a tax on the cannabis industry. Over the last several months, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) promised a comprehensive cannabis reform bill. This summer they released a framework bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), and asked for public comment, which they received from many individuals, including Colorado’s Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser.

The senators’ framework bill suggests legalizing cannabis, decriminalizing it, and incorporating social equity into the industry. All have merit but the senators also suggest heavily taxing the industry year over year by creating an excise tax rate of 10% for the first year enacted, increasing to 15%, 20% and 25% thereafter. And in year five they suggest shifting the rate based on quantity sold or milligrams of THC. It is also unclear how the federal excise tax will interact with any state-imposed taxes.

In Colorado, the cannabis industry is highly regulated including several layers of government oversight, a long-time battle that has been successful because real regulation over prohibition works. There is already a 15% special tax on recreational cannabis sales, and then local governments enact their own cannabis sales and industry tax on top. As a result, consumers in our state could be paying upwards of 40% on taxes by year four of CAOA which is outrageous for the industry and consumers, and that doesn’t include what local municipalities impose too on the local level either.

Currently, there are two proposed cannabis tax measures on the November ballot: one statewide and one local in Denver that seek to again shake the industry for additional tax dollars. The first, Proposition 119/LEAP is a statewide measure proposing to raise the state cannabis sales tax portion to 20% to fund “out-of-school learning and enrichment opportunities.” The measure to me reads like a public school voucher. The devil is definitely in the details so I encourage you to read your 2021 State Ballot Information Booklet, better known as the “blue book” and do some further research on this tax.

The second measure pertains to Denver, which houses more than 200 cannabis shops. The measure proposes raising the city’s recreational cannabis sales tax by another 1.5% to fund pandemic research and public response plan during pandemics. Don’t get me wrong, this is a worthy issue to fund, but why tax the cannabis industry for it? It’s important to note that cannabis taxes in the state already go toward funding education, health care, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and law enforcement research among others. A decrease in revenue based on additional taxes would have the counter effect by decreasing funding for programs like these.

I share these examples to point out that overtaxing the cannabis industry will make it so cost-prohibitive for consumers it could drive them toward the illicit market. In turn that makes our communities vulnerable to more crime and illegal activity. It also hits small businesses hard by burdening them with a financial hit that makes their survival virtually impossible.

To that point, raising taxes on one of the state’s leading (and most taxed) industries while our economy is struggling to recover seems wrong. The industry has come to the rescue of states nationally generating much of their tax revenue, creating small businesses, and in particular helping our state’s tourism industry. Continued economic attacks to fix financial shortfalls certainly shouldn’t be targeted at one specific industry and as history has shown, taxation without representation truly doesn’t work.

Mara Sheldon is a senior policy advisor at Squire Patton Boggs. She is a member of the Colorado Hemp Association Board of Directors and serves on the Advisory Board for KEY Investment Partners LLC. Previously, she was communications director and spokesperson for the Polis for Colorado campaign.

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Charlie Baker insists vaccine verification system is not a pathway to mandates

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Charlie Baker insists vaccine verification system is not a pathway to mandates

Gov. Charlie Baker wants everyone to know he does not support a vaccine mandate statewide — “period.”

His unequivocal stance comes after he went on radio and said a digital vaccine verification system may soon be coming to Massachusetts. The floodgates opened and he was hit with a barrage of questions about how and why it will be implemented.

Baker emphasized that he has “never supported or agreed to any sort of statewide vaccine mandate program” several times, and added that he doesn’t plan to in the future. He explained that the mandate is only in place for people who “want to go to a wedding or to a church, or to a restaurant where proof of vaccination is required,” he said.

“This isn’t about creating a mandate or a statewide initiative of any kind, we just want to make sure that people have the ability, if they’ve been vaccinated and want to have proof that they’ve been vaccinated, that they can easily download it onto their phone and use it whenever they need to,” Baker said.

Baker also didn’t weigh in on the broader use of the technology, which he said will be rolled out “soon,” throughout an unnamed city, for example. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has recently hinted that she’s considering a “vaccine passport” system similar to the one in New York City, which requires patrons to show their vaccination status before entering venues like gyms, theaters and restaurants.

“We said from the very beginning of the pandemic that we’re going to pursue one set of rules that we consider to be important at the state level, but we’re going to give locals a lot of latitude with respect to how they want to play it at the local level,” Baker said, making no mention of Boston or Wu.

Though the governor touted the ease of verification availability on people’s smartphones, even as the ACLU of Massachusetts has raised concerns.

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Charlie Baker attends groundbreaking at Norwood Hospital, damaged by 2020 flood

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Charlie Baker attends groundbreaking at Norwood Hospital, damaged by 2020 flood

Gov. Charlie Baker attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Norwood to mark the start of construction on a new hospital in the town after the old one was damaged in a June 2020 flood.

“There will be a beautiful new hospital here and this hospital will continue to provide care and service to this community for at least another 100 years,” Baker said. “But that wipeout that took place that day, that was another profound example of how you can’t always predict what every day is going to be like.”

Norwood Town Manager Tony Mazzucco said emergency rescuers evacuated over 100 people from the hospital that night during the pandemic and the storm without any injuries to patients or first responders.

The hospital is set to reopen in 2024.

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Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom relishes his citizenship

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Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom relishes his citizenship

A day after officially becoming a United States citizen, and the morning after his on-air chat with Fox’s Tucker Carlson, the self-renamed Enes Kanter Freedom felt like the embodiment of the first amendment.

His outspoken attacks on China — the nation with a heavy commercial connection to the NBA — and American cronies like Nike and his own league, span the network spectrum. He’s also been interviewed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and MSNBC.

But as on opening night, when Freedom says he refused a request by two NBA representatives to not wear his Free Tibet sneakers, he claims to not be breaking any league rules.

“I had a conversation with Adam — Adam Silver — and I told Adam, ‘Listen, am I breaking any rules?’ And he said no,” said Freedom, who has since worn an expanding list of protest sneakers. I told him, I was like, ‘If there’s any rules that I’m breaking or I’m violating, let me know. I’ll be the first one to follow.’ And he said, ‘No, you’re not violating any rules.’ And I was like, ‘Adam — you’re guys are the ones that are telling us and encouraging players to stand up for what’s right, not just the problems in America, but all over the world. So you guys are the ones that encouraged me to talk about all the violations that are happening all over the world, right?’ And he was like, ‘Listen, you have the freedom to say whatever you want.’ And I was like, ‘I appreciate that.’

Freedom admittedly had periods of frustration, including when he started the season out of Ime Udoka’s rotation. His tweet — “Keep limiting me on the court, I will expose you off the court” — was generally interpreted as an insinuation that his playing time was linked to his political stances and activism.

Kanter sat down to discuss the tweet with Udoka, and was told that his lack of minutes had everything to do with playing behind Al Horford and Robert Williams, and nothing to do with Tibet’s freedom.

“And after that talk, I’ve played every game,” said Freedom. “I mean, yeah, that’s how I felt, and I put it out there, and coach Ime came to me and said that’s not the situation. And I said, ‘OK.’ And after that talk, I pretty much played every game.”

With Rob Williams expected to play Wednesday night, there could be another minutes shift, though Freedom’s bulk will be needed against Joel Embiid. But regardless of how much he plays, Freedom will continue pushing the issue.

Freedom said he would like to talk with LeBron James, an outspoken social advocate who has always remained silent about his commercial partner, China. Freedom would at least like to bring clarity to his ongoing beef with the Lakers star.

“Sure, I’d love to sit down and talk to him. I’m sure it’s going to be a very uncomfortable conversation for him,” said Freedom. “I don’t know if he’s gonna want that. I’ll make that really comfortable for him. I don’t know if he’s educated enough but I’m here to educate him and I’m here to help him, because it’s not about money. It’s about morals, principles and values. It’s about what you stand for. There are way bigger things than money. If LeBron stopped making money now, his grandkids and grandkids and grandkids can have the best life ever. I feel like it’s definitely time for athletes to stand up for the things they believe in, and stand up for the things, not just in America issues, but all over the world.”

Freedom, who has also called out Michael Jordan for his political silence, said he feels no hesitation when criticizing the biggest names in the sport.

“I mean, my whole life I was never scared of anything. Not many people know this but whenever I sit down with an NBA player, they are telling me that they want to talk about many of the issues that are happening but they are scared because of the challenges they will face,” said Freedom. “The thing is, whenever I talk about LeBron, whenever I talk about Michael Jordan, the Black athletes in the league are the ones reaching out to me and saying, ‘Listen, talk about this person.’ They are the ones that actually — not many people know this — but they are the ones giving me talking points.

“When Black Lives Matter protests happened, I was the third one in the whole league that went out there and protested. I was actually wearing my jersey, I wanted them to know that I am with them. I am with them, it’s not them, it’s us, it’s all of us. But when these issues are happening, some of the other players out there in the league are scared to say anything against LeBron or Jordan or against some of the issues that are happening, but they are reaching out to me and giving me talking points and say, ‘Listen, talk about LeBron.’

“It’s amazing but he’s at least standing up for things in America. Why don’t you say anything about Michael Jordan? The only thing he is doing is just giving money but he is remaining silent. He’s scared to speak up. Silence is violence so they are the ones sending me all the talking points and if I believe in it, then I’m going out and saying it. Because, like I said, I’m not really scared of anything because this is bigger than basketball. It’s important to not have that fear and I hope more players will join me.”

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