Oregon Funds Schools and More with $85 Million from Cannabis Tax

The Oregon Department of Revenue distributed the last of its promised allocation of $85 million in pot revenues on Tuesday to cities, counties, and various state agencies. This is the first distribution of cannabis taxes since recreational sales came into effect on January 4 last year. According to the department, October 11 was the final deadline for distribution of these monies.

The agency is not handing out cash willy-nilly, however. It is splitting the revenues according to state laws enacted to govern the process. The State School Fund received the biggest individual amount when the state sent $34 million its way. Overseers divided the rest among several agencies of the state, including the Oregon State Police and the Oregon Health Authority.

The agency is placing great emphasis on funding drug, alcoholism, and mental health treatment programs throughout the state. It split another $17 million between cities and counties throughout Oregon, using a complex formula of calculation, based in large part on the quantity of licensed pot companies operating in each jurisdiction.

The Department of Revenue will not be disclosing to the public the exact amounts that specific municipalities received. Joy Krawczyk, representative and spokesperson for the agency, said that the state would report annual distribution figures every year by region. On Friday, however, it was still not clear even to cash recipients just how much money they would be receiving.

Harvey Bragg, senior deputy county administrator for Jackson County, said simply, “We do not have a clue.” With 220 operating licenses issued to pot firms in southern Oregon County, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission considers the area a prime location for the state industry’s epicenter. According to Bragg, leaders were uncertain about what to expect, despite the county providing estimated projections earlier this year.

“We did not even budget for it,” Braggs explained. Besides the $85 million the department is currently distributing, it has allocated another $9.6 million to set aside for the administrative costs incurred by both the Oregon Liquor Control Board and the Oregon Department of Revenue. A separate, entirely different state law authorized those payments, but it is clear that legal pot is paying off for Oregon

It is now distributing astonishing sums of tax dollars generated by legal marijuana sales. The $85 million is only a portion of total taxes collected thus far. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the state agency responsible for governing legal pot, needed to reimburse the administrative costs of setting up and implementing the state’s program, which is the reason why is the distribution of taxes is finally going ahead.

According to Mark Pettinger, spokesperson for the agency, the OLCC loaned $13 million initially to cover early administrative costs. Now that it has paid the money back in full, the state is ready to distribute associated tax revenues. This is a breakdown of how Oregon plans to spend its pot money:

  • The State School Fund will get $34 million.
  • The drug, alcoholism, and mental health services account will receive $17 million.
  • Cities and countries across Oregon will get $17 million.
  • The Oregon State Police will receive $12 million.
  • The Oregon Health Authority will get $4 million.

Regulations now exist as a guideline for calculating future distributions of weed taxes:

  • Common School Fund – 40 percent
  • Drug, Alcohol and Mental Health Treatment Programs – 20 percent
  • Oregon State Police – 15 percent
  • Cities (for local enforcement efforts) – 10 percent
  • Counties (for local enforcement efforts) – 10 percent
  • Oregon Health Authority – 5 percent

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