Missoula County voters approve recreational marijuana tax; medical tax unclear | Local News

Voters in Missoula County appear to have approved a 3% local-option excise tax on recreational marijuana products sold within the county.

However, early voting results showed a proposed 3% tax on medical marijuana products was failing by a razor-thin margin.

The 3% tax on recreational marijuana was passing by an overwhelming margin at 8 p.m. Monday, with 26,129 votes for the tax (78%) and only 7,257 against.

The 3% tax on medical marijuana products was failing with 16,886 votes against (50.59%) and 16,426 votes for the tax (49.31%). The vote tabulation is unofficial until all votes are canvassed by county elections officials.

The new tax will apply to the retail sales price of all recreational marijuana products and will go into effect on Jan. 31, 2022. On Jan. 1, it will be legal for all registered medical dispensaries in Missoula County to begin selling recreational marijuana to all adults age 21 and over within the county.

If both the recreational and medical tax measures had been approved, they were both estimated to generate around $716,000 annually combined, based on a report from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. It’s unclear how much money a tax on just recreational products would produce.

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The county will get 50% of the revenue from the new tax, while 45% will go to the city and the remaining 5% to the state. Already in Montana, medical marijuana has a 4% state tax and recreational marijuana will have a 20% state tax once it’s legal.

“Though city and county officials are still considering what the revenue could go toward, options being explored include using a percentage to offset property taxes, as well as funding community needs like the mobile crisis unit and preventing homelessness,” said county communications manager Allison Franz earlier this year.

As of Sept. 15, there were 57 marijuana dispensaries in Missoula County registered with the Montana Department of Revenue.

After Jan. 1, 2022, no new dispensaries will be able to operate for 18 months. Only previously established medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to sell recreational marijuana during that period.

Ross Ingman, the chief marketing officer at Montana Kush dispensary in Missoula, told the Missoulian in July that the tax wouldn’t affect his business at all if it were passed because the costs would be passed on to the consumer. He still expected his sales to quadruple in January when he can sell recreational products. He noted that Oregon has a 17% state retail tax on all marijuana products.

Meanwhile, the city is planning to take public comment on a proposal to amend city zoning code related to recreational cannabis businesses.

City planners have recommended a buffer between dispensaries and a ban on non-transparent glass storefronts, as well as a ban on home cultivation or manufacturing as a legally allowed home occupation. They say the proposed changes would increase safety and preserve neighborhood character. The city council has not yet voted on the issue.

In 2022, the University of Montana study estimated that $217 million worth of marijuana will be sold in Montana, with nonresident visitors buying nearly $30 million of that chunk.

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