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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 To Start Taxing Recreational Marijuana January 4

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Starting Monday, shoppers in Oregon will find themselves in the unusual position of paying sales tax. But only if they're buying recreational marijuana.

Oregon is one of just five states with no general sales tax. State legislators decided to make an exception for pot. The 2014 voter-approved initiative that legalized marijuana did include a tax, but it was focused at the grower and wholesale level.

The legislature decided that a tax at the point of sale would be easier to levy. They replaced the earlier tax schedule with a retail tax of 25 percent.

But that rate will actually go down later this year. That's when recreational pot sales shift from medical marijuana dispensaries to newly licensed recreational pot stores. The sales tax will then drop to 17 percent statewide, with local cities and counties allowed to tack on another three percent.

Oregon's tax remains lower than its neighbor to the north. This past year, lawmakers in Olympia re-jiggered Washington's rate, increasing it to 37 percent at the point of sale.