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MEEKER | Former state senator Mike Johnston, 42, a declared Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, visited Meeker again Tuesday, meeting with a few folks at the Elk Mountain Inn café. Johnston’s next stop was to be an agricultural, farm and ranch forum in Craig.
Folks attending in Meeker wanted to know about health care, how marijuana revenues were being spent by the state, the expenditure of Great Outdoor Colorado (GOCO) funds from the state lottery, how foster home programs might be better funded for rural counties, and Johnston’s perceived differences between the Front Range and the Western Slope.
Johnston explained that about $150 million annually was accruing to the state from marijuana taxes. He further suggested that there were probably a good number of marijuana users who were still getting their marijuana under a medical card, but using the herb recreationally. This makes a huge difference to the state, he pointed out, as medical marijuana is taxed at 2 percent while recreational sales are taxed at 25 percent. Only about $40 to $50 million are now allocated each year to public schools for capital construction use only, while the remaining approximate $100 million is spent on regulation enforcement, tracking and education to prevent abuse.
Johnston agreed with resident Joanne Sauter that proposals federally to allow each state to develop and run their own health insurance programs as a replacement of the Affordable Care Act made little sense as it would make any uniformity of treatment and costs as well as easy portability between states impossible.
On differences between the rural Western Slope and the Front Range, Johnston pointed out that with all the people moving to the Front Range from out of state, as well as in-state population growth, Front Range economies are generally booming with living and housing costs skyrocketing and infrastructure transportation challenges dominating. In rural Colorado, it’s often the opposite, he said, with communities often struggling for survival. Johnston grew up in Eagle County.