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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Give Initial Approval To Marijuana Sales Tax

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Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Oregon on July 1.

Oregon lawmakers are moving ahead with a plan that would change the way recreational marijuana is taxed.

The Oregon House signed off on a measure Thursday that would tax pot at the point of sale instead of at the wholesale level. In other words, a sales tax.

Oregon doesn't have a sales tax. Things like cigarettes and beer are taxed before they arrive at stores. This measure would implement a 17 percent sales tax for recreational marijuana. That's a shift from the tax on growers and producers written into the measure that voters approved last year.

But GOP Representative Carl Wilson said that the sales tax would mean lower prices.

"The rationale for this is that lower taxes result in reduced diversion of cannabis into the black market,” he said. “Something that we’re all concerned about.”

Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Oregon on July 1 but retail sales won't start right away. A separate measure moving forward would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell pot to the general public starting October 1.