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In 2012, Washington and Colorado voters made history when they approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Washington Initiative 502 “authorizes the state liquor board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age or older.”Since the vote in Washington, the Liquor Board has written a complex set of rules for the state’s new, legal recreational cannabis marketplace. The agency has also set limits on the amount of marijuana that can be grown. And the Board has begun to license growers, processors and retailers.For now, the Obama administration has signaled it will not interfere with Washington and Colorado’s legal pot experiment, unless there is evidence that legal pot is “leaking” to other states or children are getting access to the legal product. The feds are also watching to see if criminal organizations exploit the legal market.The first marijuana retail stores in Washington opened in July 2014.Recreational marijuana is also set to become legal in Oregon on July 1, 2015 after voters approved Measure 91 in November 2014.

Pot Taxes Paid In Cash? Washington Says OK

Leah Gaines
US Navy

Marijuana-based businesses in Washington will be able to pay their taxes in cash. That’s the word from the state’s Department of Revenue.

The agency is gearing up for more cash filers in its field offices.

Most banks are unwilling to open accounts for marijuana businesses because of the federal prohibition on pot. That means Washington’s new, legal recreational marijuana market could be a largely cash-based enterprise.

That’s a challenge in a mostly electronic world. However, Kim Schmanke with Washington’s Department of Revenue says her agency is already equipped to accept tax payments in cash.

"Revenue has a number of customers who currently do pay their taxes in cash in our field offices," she says. "And we anticipate the influx of cash transactions in our field offices so we are preparing our staff and bringing in the cash counting equipment.”

Revenue will collect retail sales and Business and Occupation taxes from marijuana companies. Washington’s Liquor Control Board is responsible for collecting the 25 percent excise taxes at the producer, processor and retail levels.

But a spokesman says the Liquor Board has not yet figured out how to collect those taxes. One hope is a banking solution will emerge before the pot market really gets going next spring.

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."