PORTLAND, Ore. -- Tax money collected from Oregon’s legal marijuana sales has been a rare bright spot in the state budget at a time when lawmakers fight over how to fill a $1.6 billion budget deficit.
The state has brought in close to $75 million in tax revenue since the beginning of 2016. It’s not enough to close the budget gap, but it’s a start.
But even though the state has been collecting taxes for well over a year, not a single penny of that tax revenue has been distributed to its intended recipients, like schools and police agencies.
That’s because of a quirk in the state law that governs legal marijuana. It dictates that before anyone else gets paid, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission must be reimbursed for administrative costs associated with setting up their new marijuana program.
That hasn’t yet happened. Until it does, the tens of millions of dollars in marijuana tax revenue will just sit in a state account.
Luckily, cash-strapped state agencies won’t have to wait much longer for the marijuana money to start flowing.
The OLCC took out a loan for $13 million to cover initial administrative costs, according to agency spokesman Mark Pettinger. They must repay that loan before September, although they hope to do it earlier.
About half of that $13 million payment will come from the fees and the other half from the marijuana tax account.
Once that happens the remaining money in the marijuana account will be available to distribute.
The law lays out how the money will be eventually distributed:
* 40 percent – Common School Fund
* 20 percent – Mental health, drug and alcohol treatment programs
* 15 percent – Oregon State Police
* 10 percent – Cities (for local law enforcement)
* 10 percent – Counties (for local law enforcement)
* 5 percent – Oregon Health Authority