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New pot tax could raise prices some

I was wondering how much more it’s going to cost me to buy medical marijuana in January with the new tax. It seems pretty expensive now, so it’s going to be tough to come up with the extra money. Generally, I pay anywhere from $5 to $10 for a gram.

— Ron S., Phoenix

Well, Ron, you don’t have to worry about the tax at all if you’re a medical marijuana cardholder.

The new 25 percent tax that starts Monday, Jan. 4, applies only to recreational marijuana. For instance, if you pay $5 a gram now, you might pay $6.25 with the added tax. If you pay $10 now, it might jump to $12.50.

But Julia Dodson, spokesman for Marijuana Tax Program at the Oregon Department of Revenue, said many dispensaries have already built the upcoming tax into their pricing structure. "Many dispensaries are absorbing or inflating the amount from the get-go," she said.

As a result, that $10 gram of pot later In January may have the exact same pricing, she said. Some dispensaries may increase their pricing by a dollar or two, Dodson said. Dispensaries are still required to provide the state with 25 percent of any sales of recreational marijuana, she said.

According to a Legislative fiscal estimate, the amount of sales taxes that might be generated in 2016 is between $2 million to $3 million, Dodson said.

By the end of 2016, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will begin licensing recreational marijuana shops, which will be in different stores than medical marijuana.

The new licensed recreational marijuana shops will have a different tax rate of 17 percent. Local communities have the option of collecting a separate 3 percent tax. Under current regulations, medical marijuana dispensaries will stop selling recreational marijuana by the end of next year.

Oregon voters approved the marijuana tax under Ballot Measure 91. The total revenue, after the state pays off its administrative costs, will be distributed as follows: 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 cities for local law enforcement; 10 percent to counties for local law enforcement; and 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention and early intervention and treatment services.

Money collected from the new tax will be distributed in July 2017.

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