Blaine and Bellingham score biggest tax benefits from pot

Pot_SG-1By Steve Guntli

Washington state is distributing tax revenues from marijuana sales with counties and cities, and Whatcom County is one of the biggest recipients.

In the two years since Initiative 502 legalized recreational marijuana, Whatcom County has raked in $267,396 in tax revenue. That number puts the county fourth highest in taxable pot revenue, with projected yearly receipts of $160,438. The county is behind King, Spokane and Snohomish counties. The amount jurisdictions receive is based on their taxable sales and will be distributed quarterly. The first payments went out in October.

Bellingham took the lion’s share of the county’s tax revenue and received $102,286 for 2015, the sixth highest total for individual cities in the state.

Blaine is the only other city that received tax revenue, albeit a much smaller amount: $4,672. Blaine has one retail marijuana store in operation, Evergreen Cannabis on Peace Portal Drive.

This June, Governor Jay Inslee approved a pot reform bill that would allow the state to share tax revenues with counties and cities, something that wasn’t addressed in the original language of I-502. The pot reform bill changed the tax rate to a 37 percent excise tax for marijuana at the point of sale, as opposed to separate 25 percent taxes at each level of production.  The state will distribute about $6 million for this fiscal year, which began July 1, and another $6 million in the next fiscal year. Beginning in 2018, if statewide tax revenue on marijuana exceeds $25 million, 30 percent of the revenue over $25 million will go towards counties and cities where retail stores are located, and the remaining 70 percent will go towards cities and towns on a per-capita basis. However, areas that prohibit state-licensed producers, processors or retailers are not eligible for tax benefits.

According to state law, the tax revenue must be used for funding marijuana law enforcement and public safety measures, but neither of those terms is clearly defined.

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