Now that we’re just about halfway through 2016, things are really starting to come together for the recreational marijuana program in Oregon. Licenses are going out and by the end of the year, businesses will be up and running, ready for their debut in 2017. With this new industry opening up comes the potential for revenue from not only state taxes, but local taxes as well. Currently, the limited time program that allows medical marijuana shops to sell to adults 21 and older collects a 25% tax on all recreational sales – but when the retail shops open their doors that tax will be lowered to 17% on a state level.
The 17% state tax on all retail cannabis sales will contribute to a fund that is expected to reach at least $10.7 million. That money will be broken down into several categories including a Common School Fund, mental health and alcoholism and drug services, state police, local (city and county) law enforcement for enforcing the new measure, as well as the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug use prevention.
Now, these taxes only allocate around 10% to the city and local law enforcement – so on its own it does not help individual cities and counties very much. However, cities are allowed to vote on an additional tax, up to 3%, which they could use as they please in order to benefit their communities. The city of Portland is one of the first to decide to put this question on the ballot this November for voters – are those who voted for legal weed willing to pay a little extra to help the city?
In Portland, if voters pass the additional 3% tax, the extra revenue would go into a few different areas. It is expected that these funds would go to drug and alcohol treatment and education programs, training for police and paramedics, and other areas in order to improve safety in a number of situations. The more creative uses of these funds start with supporting small businesses of all types – small businesses are what our country was built on and sometimes we need a reminder to embrace them instead of larger corporations.
The last thing they mentioned allocating that extra tax money to is the one place that I think will have a major impact on a large number of lives. They would potentially be using a portion of that money to help those who were affected negatively by marijuana prohibition, by helping them to expunge their records. If what they were convicted of would not be considered a crime in their city today, then the record should be expunged, it’s only fair.
This would not help people who had trafficking convictions, but for the hundreds, potentially thousands, with records of misdemeanor or even felony possession of marijuana could see their records clean. If you were convicted of growing cannabis plants (as long as it is within the legal limit in the state now) then you could also likely see your record expunged. It’s a great thought – to help people who face a criminal record that affects everything from housing to employment and more, to be able to get their life back.
Hopefully this will become a topic that is more openly discussed and potentially give people in all states with legal recreational sales the chance to put their prior criminal convictions behind them. It’s only fair that the cities and counties (and even the states) who were part of the cause of the problem by enforcing prohibition to be partially – if not fully, if funds allow it – responsible for helping people to expunge these records.