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Missoula voters approve 3% recreational pot tax, narrowly reject medical tax

(Hazel Cramer/Community News Service)

Missoula County will collect only half the marijuana tax money it proposed to spend on tax relief and housing next year.

Based upon the final results of Tuesday’s election, a resounding 78% of Missoula voters supported a 3% tax on recreational marijuana sales. But far fewer – just 48.4% – supported a similar 3% tax on medical marijuana.

As a result, the medical marijuana tax appeared defeated by 1,217 votes. That was based on just 44.5% of 88,139 registered voters turning in their ballots in this mail-in election.

If those are the final totals, the tax revenue will be only half of the annual $716,000 the city and county anticipated. Missoula County will get half of the revenue and the city of Missoula will get 45% with the remainder going to the state for administration.

In July, the Missoula County commission pledged its portion to housing and tax relief.

“We’re overly property taxed because we have a lack of other tools to generate revenue by which can use to provide services. I feel like housing and property tax relief are broad enough that we could do lots of different things,” Commissioner Josh Slotnick said in July.

The state taxes medical marijuana at 4% percent and will tax recreation marijuana at 20% when the tax goes into effect on Jan. 1. With tonight’s results, taxes on recreational pot will be 23% in Missoula County. That will apply to 57 dispensaries in Missoula County, and no new dispensaries can open for 18 months after January.

There’s a chance the tax revenue will increase with time. In the seven states with similar programs in 2019, marijuana tax revenues represented almost 0.4% of overall state budgets. But, revenues have grown consistently over the last three years in the states with more established markets, according to the county commissioners’ webpage.

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at lundquist@missoulacurrent.com.