Marijuana: Oregon’s new lottery

Oregon government has found a new addiction – marijuana taxes.


Oregon collected $3.48 million in marijuana taxes in January 2016, the first month of taxing legal recreational marijuana. Based on these returns, the future looks bright for Oregon’s budget.

Economics consulting firm ECONorthwest initially projected the state would see $38.5 million in marijuana tax revenue in 2016. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational marijuana, projected less. But if Oregon sales for the rest of the year stay on the current trajectory, Oregon will collect $41.76 million in 2016, the Bend Bulletin figures.

“While state officials were quick to caution that it will take time to get an accurate view of the money coming in through marijuana sales, the early estimate shows pot may be a bigger boon than initially thought for Oregon’s schools and police, which receive a portion of tax revenue,” the Bulletin said.

Under Ballot Measure 91, revenue after costs will be divided as follows: 40 percent to the Common School Fund; 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism and drug services; 15 percent to state police; 10 percent each to cities and counties; 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

What a windfall is coming their way.

And soon enough, just as has happened with the State lottery, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Legislature will find themselves looking for ways to generate more marijuana money.

Lottery money has already turned the state into an addict, as Oregon’s lottery take has gone from $87.8 million in FY86 to $1.12 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015, an increase of 6.1 percent over fiscal year 2014. The Lottery is a very big business.

Going forward, the Lottery is working hard to expand its audience and revenues with development of new games, platforms, and venues in order to attract more diverse demographic groups.

The lure of raking in lottery dollars without having to raise taxes has long been appealing to politicians anxious to satiate government’s insatiable thirst for revenue. In fact, the lottery is often referred to as a “voluntary tax”, though behavioral research calls the “voluntary” part into question.

Whatever it’s called, the state always wants more of it, just as it will with marijuana taxes. You can count on it.










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