Lawmakers tackling tax issue for recreational marijuana

LAS VEGAS - While regulators hammer out when recreational marijuana sales will start in Nevada, lawmakers are now tackling how much it should be taxed.

Voters passed a 15 percent tax last November, but additional taxes are on the table.

If pot went on sale today, the tax rate to customers would be 23.25 percent. That comes from state and local sales taxes along with a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana cultivation that essentially gets passed on to consumers.

So how does our tax structure stack up to other cities with recreational pot is already sold?

Portland, Oregon's tax comes in at 20 percent. That's all from special marijuana taxes. The state has no local or state sales taxes.

In Denver, you pay about 21 percent in taxes. That includes the city and state sales taxes along with city and state marijuana-specific taxes.

Las Vegas' 23 and a quarter percent tax surpasses those rates and it will likely go up.

Two bills still alive in the legislature could raise the tax 10 percent each putting the tax over 43 percent. But it's unlikely both will pass.

SB 487 would impose an additional 10 percent tax with half of the money going to the county and the rest split into the state K-12 account and a mental health and substance abuse fund.

The other bill, SB 508, backed by Governor Sandoval would send all proceeds to K-12 education, about $70 million over the next two years.

Also, local governments can impose additional taxes which have not yet been determined.

Regulators want recreational pot sales to begin by July 1.

Right now, you can legally possess up to an ounce of weed but there's nowhere to legally buy it unless you have a medical marijuana card.

State Senator Tick Segerblom, considered the father of the state's marijuana program, says it needs to get running as soon as possible -- high taxes or not -- to end reliance on the black market.

Because of the city's tourist economy, he wants some form of public consumption adopted because there is nowhere for visitors to legally smoke marijuana.

"I just am very concerned that now it's legal, we're going to be advertised around the world to come to Las Vegas to use marijuana, and if there's no place to use it, that's going to be kind of a downer," Sen. Tick Segerblom said.

About a half-dozen marijuana-related bills passed out of the senate judiciary committee Wednesday. Democrats have the votes to pass the non-tax related bills but what remains to be seen is if the governor will sign them.

Governor Sandoval says he will support the will of the voters but that does not mean he will sign every bill.

The two pot tax increases will need Republican support to reach a required two-thirds majority which is the case with all tax increases.

One of those bills is backed by the governor so you can bet he'll sign it if it reaches his desk.


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