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Oregon Lawmakers Give Initial Approval To Marijuana Sales Tax

File photo of a marijuana grow in Colorado. Recreational marijuana is set to become legal in Oregon starting July 1.
Public domain
File photo of a marijuana grow in Colorado. Recreational marijuana is set to become legal in Oregon starting July 1.

Oregon lawmakers are moving ahead with a plan that would change the way recreational marijuana is taxed.

The Oregon House signed off on a measure Thursday that would tax pot at the point of sale instead of at the wholesale level. In other words, a sales tax.

Oregon doesn't have a sales tax. Things like cigarettes and beer are taxed before they arrive at stores. This measure would implement a 17 percent sales tax for recreational marijuana. That's a shift from the tax on growers and producers written into the measure that voters approved last year.

But GOP Representative Carl Wilson said that the sales tax would mean lower prices.

"The rationale for this is that lower taxes result in reduced diversion of cannabis into the black market,” he said. “Something that we’re all concerned about.”

Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Oregon on July 1 but retail sales won't start right away. A separate measure moving forward would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell pot to the general public starting October 1.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.