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Eastern Part of State Missing Out on Economic Boom

Oregon has marked its first year of legal cannabis, and Oregonians are buying lots of weed — at least in the western part of the state. For some reason, cities in Eastern Oregon aren’t very much into marijuana, or, apparently, the cash it brings.

The state’s official seed-to-sale tracking system will become operational later this year, but the Legislature has already given the go-ahead for early recreational pot sales, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian.

Oregon has collected $14.9 million in tax revenues from recreational cannabis sales since January, translating into about $60 million in sales. Pot sales are taxed at 25 percent, and the resulting revenue has far outpaced economists’ estimates.

The recreational pot tax will soon be replaced with one ranging from 17 percent to 20 percent, once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission starts regulating sales later this year. The Legislature set the base tax rate at 17 percent for marijuana, but cities and counties can add up to 3 percent more.

Portland, for instance, home to 147 recreational marijuana dispensaries, placed a 3 percent pot tax on the November 8 ballot. City officials said the tax could raise $3 million to $5 million a year.

More than 100 cities and counties in eastern Oregon have banned licensed marijuana businesses. They’re allowed to ban marijuana production and sales under a law approved by the Legislature in 2015. Communities where at least 55 percent opposed Oregon’s legalization measure can opt out without referring an ordinance to the voters, if they decided before last December.

Any city or county, however, can still refer an opt-out measure to voters at the next general election in November. But governments that opt out of legal pot don’t get a cut of the tax revenue generated statewide by recreational marijuana sales.

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