A bill introduced this week would change the formula for distributing marijuana tax revenue, shifting money from the Common School Fund to mental health and addiction treatment services.
The state imposes a 17 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. Local governments may add up to 3 percent more in taxes. Since the state began collecting the tax early last year, marijuana sales have generated nearly $70 million for state coffers.
Tax revenue for schools was one of the arguments that proponents of the marijuana legalization measure made to voters in 2014. Sen. Jeff Kruse, R- Roseburg and sponsor of Senate Bill 845, said the amount that would ultimately funnel to schools would be relatively small. However, the Oregon School Boards Association said the proposal would redirect about $20 million a year from schools. The estimate comes from a Legislative Revenue Office analysis, the association said Tuesday.
“That’s $20 million away from Oregon kids and their educational futures,” said Lori Sattenspiel, interim director of Legislative Services for the association. “That is simply unacceptable.”Kruse said he’d like to see pot taxes spent on mental health and addiction treatment.
“Quite honestly there is a nexus between marijuana and drug addiction and mental health,” he said. “Services at the local level are woefully underfunded. This seemed like an ideal place to spend the money.”
Currently, the marijuana tax revenue is spent on administering state regulation of the cannabis industry and what’s left is supposed to be distributed according to a formula spelled out by law: 40 percent to the state’s Common School Fund, 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism and drug services, 15 percent to Oregon State Police, 10 percent for city law enforcement, 10 percent for county law enforcement and 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment services.Kruse said details of how much would go to local mental health and addiction treatment as well as marijuana enforcement still need to be worked out by the Finance and Revenue Committee.