By Lisa Rough
Oregon recreational consumers have been living the high life since October, enjoying easy access, no sales tax, and the best Oregon-grown cannabis they could ask for. Unfortunately, the harsh reality of recreational legalization is about to crack down on the green utopian landscape Oregonians have come to love in the form of a 25 percent tax increase.
Starting January 4th, 2016, all recreational purchases of marijuana will be taxed at 25 percent, increasing the cost significantly. On a small scale, it’s not so bad – a $10 gram will only jump up to $12.50. However, on a larger scale, the cost is a bit more jaw-dropping — for a $125 ounce, customers will end up shelling out over $30 in sales tax.
Before you Oregon cannabis lovers jump to the worst conclusion and swear off your new favorite dispensary, don’t forget that the revenue from these sales will be going to an excellent cause (and also provided a convincing argument for legalization to begin with). Recreational marijuana sales tax will be disbursed to the following programs after July 1, 2017:
- 40 percent to the Common School Fund
- 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism, and drug services
- 15 percent to the Oregon State Police
- 10 percent to city law enforcement
- 10 percent to county law enforcement
- 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention, and treatment services
- Dispensaries are allowed to keep up to 2 percent of taxes collected
Dispensaries will need to register with the Oregon Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Tax Program and submit quarterly tax returns in addition to monthly tax payments.
In preparation for the influx of cash coming from the retail industry, the Department of Revenue has stepped up its security and employee training for the handling of large cash sums, and hired an additional team specifically for cannabis-related tax payments.
Another upside to consider is that although the tax jump is extreme, it’s also only temporary. Once the program is off the ground and firmly established, the tax rate will decrease back down to a much more reasonable 17 percent permanent sales tax. Not only that, but Oregon medical marijuana patients will continue to be tax-exempt.
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