Vote Against Marijuana Taxes in Washington

On Washington State voting ballots this year, there is an advisory vote — Advisory Vote No. 8 to be exact — on whether Washington State cannabis businesses should receive tax breaks to which they are technically required. In other words, should marijuana taxes be different than all other taxes?

Right now, marijuana is heavily taxed in Washington. Really heavily taxed. Our firm is involved in cannabis legal matters in many states (Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Oregon, to name just those where our attorneys are licensed) and none of those states have or will tax cannabis businesses at a level approaching Washington. You talk about food being from farm to table, well Washington prides itself on taxing (again and again) marijuana from farm to consumer, and every single step in between.

Despite this, the Washington Legislature earlier this year acted to exclude marijuana businesses from eligibility for 36 different tax preferences for business, sales and property taxes, most of them aimed at agriculture. In other words, the legislature voted to treat marijuana differently than other crops. And the Seattle Times, in a very short editorial, thinks that this sort of discrimination is just fine.

We don’t.

The Times calls on Washington State votes to concur with the Legislature and in an upcoming advisory vote, vote to maintain the discrimination. The Seattle Times rationalizes this opinion as follows:

Good move: It makes no sense to impose steep “sin taxes” on marijuana, and then open up tax breaks intended to help farmers. Marijuana is a crop, but the legalization measure approved by voters in 2012, Initiative 502, rightly puts pot alongside alcohol as an adult indulgence that should be taxed to offset its social costs.

In closing the tax preferences for marijuana, the Legislature added $2.8 million a year in revenue, which in turn requires an advisory vote on the November ballot thanks to a 2007 initiative from anti-tax activist Tim Eyman.

The vote is meaningless, but voters should nonetheless back the Legislature’s decision to exclude marijuana tax breaks. When you see Advisory Vote No. 8 on the ballot, vote to “maintain” it.

In other words, we should advise everyone that we are okay with marijuana being excessively taxed and treated differently from other crops. And hey, your vote is meaningless anyway.

Your vote is not meaningless. This ballot measure may be meaningless, but your vote is going to tell politicians how you feel about marijuana. Therefore, we think it important that you vote and that you vote for marijuana businesses getting the same tax benefits as any other business. We think it important that you not let our elected representatives treat marijuana businesses any worse than they treat other businesses.

Vote REPEAL on Advisory Vote No. 8.

Thanks for listening.