State rolls in more pot tax revenue than expected

The revenue department collects $6.84 million in January, February

Oregon’s Department of Revenue unwittingly marked unofficial “Weed Day” April 20 by announcing another better-than-predicted return in recreational marijuana revenue.

The state collected $6.84 million in taxes from sales of recreational pot in January and February — the first two months since a 25 percent tax on the product took effect. Tax collections exceeded state economists’ projection of $2 million to $3 million for the first year of taxation on the product.

The revenue represents nearly $27.4 million in sales by about 320 dispensaries since Jan. 4. Beginning Oct. 1, medical marijuana dispensaries were authorized to sell up to a quarter-ounce of cannabis flowers per day to anyone 21 or older under Oregon Health Authority’s early start program. No tax was collected on the product until Jan. 4. Medical marijuana remains tax-exempt.

The 25 percent tax ends when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission takes over the recreational sales program later this year and will be replaced with a 17 percent tax.

It’s unclear how much of the tax revenue will be distributed to schools, drug, alcohol and mental health services, state police and cities and counties — the beneficiaries of the state’s legalized marijuana law, Measure 91. State economists first have to calculate start-up and regulatory costs associated with recreational marijuana before determining how much will be left over for beneficiaries. Distribution is scheduled to begin in late 2017.

April 20 is an unofficial worldwide holiday for smoking pot. The term — 420 — was coined by a group of high school students from San Rafael, Calif., who had a smoke-out in 1971 in the Point Reyes forest, according to the Huffington Post. The timing of the revenue department’s report on tax revenue last Wednesday was unintentional, said department spokeswoman Joy Krawczyk.

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