A baker’s dozen counties, both urban and rural, approved local-option taxes on recreational cannabis sales in Tuesday’s primary election.
Twelve counties had the local-option tax on the ballot, and all approved the measures by wide margins. The lowest tally in favor of the tax was 73% in Ravalli County. Since the Legislature last year gave local jurisdictions the option to add the local 3% tax on recreational cannabis sales, every county to vote on the measure has approved the tax.
The Montana Department of Revenue last week reported the latest monthly cannabis sales figures. The recreational market saw its highest-grossing month yet at $ 16.6 million in sales. The medical market saw $ 8.2 million in sales, the lowest in monthly sales reported since the new recreational market opened Jan. 1.
Through the 20% tax on recreational cannabis sales and separate 4% tax on medical marijuana sales, the state of Montana has collected more than $ 17 million in new tax revenues through the first five months of the year.
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Roosevelt County, a rural county on the Hi-Line, approved its tax on recreational sales with 76% percent of the vote, while 62% of voters also approved a tax on medical marijuana sales. According to a report by the state revenue department, Roosevelt County would have taken in more than $ 9,500 in tax revenues on May’s sales alone.
County Commissioner Gary Macdonald said Wednesday the new tax revenues have been earmarked for law enforcement.
“They’re going to be the most-affected department we have, because they’ll be dealing with people who use too much of it,” Macdonald said in a phone interview.
Several other counties that have approved the new tax have done so by the same reasoning: the growing availability of what remains a federally illegal drug may bring new issues with it. While dispensaries have been slow to crop up in Roosevelt County, especially considering the legal gray areas related to the county’s overlap with the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Macdonald knows law enforcement in a rural county could use the additional support.
“I think it’s one of our most important departments but also one of our most expensive,” he said.
On Tuesday, Deer Lodge, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Blaine, Ravalli, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Butte-Silver Bow, Carbon, Big Horn, Richland, Gallatin and Powell counties each approved the local tax on recreational cannabis. All but Ravalli County also approved a 3% tax on medical marijuana sales. Ravalli County joins Missoula County as the only jurisdiction to vote against taxing medical marijuana sales.
Of the taxes counties collect on cannabis sales, 50% of those revenues go to the county and 45% of the revenues must be appropriated to municipalities based on the ratio of the population of the city or town to the county population. The remaining 5% is retained by the revenue department to defray the costs of administering the local option cannabis tax.