Pot tax could hit medical version, too

A proposal from a pair of state representatives would tax dispensaries 25 percent on cannabis.

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SEATTLE — With Washington working on plans to tax recreational marijuana sales, some Democrats in Olympia say it’s time for the state to take a similar cut of sales at medical dispensaries.

Reps. Ross Hunter of Medina and Reuven Carlyle of Seattle introduced a bill Thursday that would hit dispensaries with a tax equal to 25 percent of their sales of cannabis and cannabis-infused products.

Under Initiative 502, passed by voters last fall, adults over 21 are allowed to have up to an ounce of pot. The state is due to start issuing licenses to marijuana growers, processors and retail stores, with the marijuana taxed 25 percent at each stage.

The state Liquor Control Board is developing rules for the fledgling marijuana industry, possibly including such measures as digital tracking of inventory to prevent diversion to the black market. Sales are set to begin late this year.

Hunter, chairman of the House appropriations committee, and Carlyle, chairman of the finance committee, said having a tax on medical sales would encourage people to get their weed from the state-licensed stores instead.

“What we don’t want to have is two sources of supply, one of which is regulated and taxed, and one that is not,” Hunter said.

Medical patients could still grow their own 15 plants or designate someone else to grow for them, and true community gardens of up to 150 plants and 10 patients would still be allowed.

Prescription medications aren’t taxed in Washington, and Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle medical marijuana attorney, said medical marijuana — which requires a doctor’s authorization — should fall into that category. Hunter responded that many medical items — a back brace your doctor tells you to get, for example — are taxed.

“We expect this will wind up being less like a prescription drug, and more like a drug you might be prescribed by your doctor but that is also available over the counter,” Hunter said.

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