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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Medical Marijuana Tax Proposed To Address Black Market Concerns

Brianna Butterfield
Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Three powerful Democrats in the Washington state House are proposing a new 25 percent tax on medical marijuana. The measure introduced Thursday is designed to avoid an underground market for medicinal pot once recreational marijuana is legally sold in stores.

The top three sponsors of the proposed medical marijuana tax are heavy hitters in the Washington legislatures: the chairs of House budget, finance and government accountability committees. Finance Chair Rueven Carlyle says he wants to treat medical marijuana the same as recreational pot – at least for purposes of taxation.

“My objective is total equalization and a sense of fairness to avoid a black market, to avoid economic implosion of supply and demand and to avoid the federal government coming down on us.”

Carlyle’s proposal would impose a 25 percent gross proceeds tax on the sale of medical marijuana – similar to that imposed on recreational pot under voter approved I-502. Carlyle acknowledges that the state of Washington usually doesn’t add sales tax to medicines. But he says in this case it’s warranted because of the risk of having two separate and unequal markets for marijuana.

Ezra Eickmeyer, a lobbyist for the Washington Cannabis Association, said his group might support some level of taxation if it was paired with better protections and licensing for medical marijuana growers and sellers.

On the Web:

HB 1789: Medical marijuana tax - Washington Legislature

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."