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Marijuana tax revenue numbers are in, and just like Union County cannabis consumers, the entire community is getting the short end of the stick.
From Jan. 4, 2016, to Aug. 31, 2017, the state of Oregon collected $108.6 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales. From that revenue, $34 million is distributed to the State School Fund; $17 million goes to Mental Health, Alcoholism and Drug Services; $12.75 million to State Police; and $4.25 million to the Oregon Health Authority. Counties and cities that allowed recreational sales will have $17 million divided among them.
According to Haley Olson, with Rocky Mountain Dispensary, neighboring Grant County missed out on an estimated $500,000 in revenue by “opting out” of recreational sales. Funds are released to counties and cities based on a formula developed by the state. Applying the same metrics Olson used to Union County, our citizens lost out on around $1.7 million dollars in additional revenue due to “opting out” of recreational sales. These funds are needed in our communities and were needlessly squandered by our city leaders and the county commissioners.
In addition to the lost tax revenue for the community, the prohibitionist stance of Union County and La Grande have hurt local businesses. The sole dispensary in Union County, Hwy 30 Cannabis in La Grande, has been forced to send customers with the potential to spend thousands of dollars a day in revenue to Pendleton, Huntington or Sumpter because its is allowed to sell only to medical marijuana patients.
Like it or not, marijuana use and cultivation is legal in the state of Oregon. Not allowing the sale of marijuana through legitimate businesses does not deter use, but it does keep the underground “black market” thriving to the detriment of our citizens and youth. OLCC oversees regulating marijuana the same way they regulate alcohol. It is dangerous to support a “black market” approach by refusing to allow legitimate, controlled sales to consenting adults.
The leaders in our communities need to wake up and accept that marijuana use is not going away.
To forego the tax revenue and job creation generated by the marijuana industry is ignorant and irresponsible. I would call on city leaders and the county commissioners to stop raising our taxes, utilities and fees to pay for public works projects when they are forcing millions of dollars out of Union County.
About the author
Jeremy Rademacher, 41, of Elgin, is an electrician at the Boise Cascade Plywood Mill.
My Voice columns reflect the views of the author only. My Voice columns should be 500-700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. We edit submissions for brevity, grammar, taste and legal reasons. We reject those published elsewhere. Send columns to La Grande Observer, 1406 5th St., La Grande, Ore., 97850, fax them to 541-963-7804 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.