Medical marijuana isn't subject to tax

Is there any state tax of medical marijuana dispensaries based on the volume of sales? Don't tell me they have basically legalized the drug without taxing it.

— Andruss N., via email

Well, Andruss, it sounds like you'll be voting for marijuana legalization when it hits the ballot in Nov. 2014. Your question makes the case for what's sure to be a main talking point for advocates from New Approach Oregon, the group that filed an initiative petition with the Secretary of State's office a few weeks ago to legalize and tax pot in Oregon.

Under the group's proposal, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would regulate the production and sale of marijuana, which would be taxed for the benefit of schools, police and addiction services. Adults, meanwhile, would be free to grow their own pot without the state's say-so, just as they may now brew their own beer.

Under the dispensary law passed by the Legislature this year, known as House Bill 3460, medical marijuana dispensaries will have to pay a $4,000 fee each year to be registered, but that's not a tax, because the money won't go to schools, police or any of the other services normally funded with tax dollars.

The $900,000 expected to be gathered through registration fees from grow facilities will pay only for the cost of establishing and administering the licensing system established under the dispensary bill.

And there's no tax on patients who buy medicine from dispensaries, so the answer to your question, Andruss, is no, the state won't make anything on medical marijuana facilities authorized under the dispensary bill.

But it wouldn't be accurate to say the state "basically legalized the drug without taxing it." It wasn't the state that legalized medical marijuana. It was the voters who did that back in 1998, when they said sick people should have access to it.

And it will be voters like you who will decide whether Oregon follows Washington and Colorado down the legalization path next year.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.


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