(Denver Post file)

Oregon legislative panel backs sales tax for marijuana

SALEM, Ore. — The state lawmakers preparing for Oregon’s legal marijuana program are supporting a sales tax for the drug.

A joint House-Senate committee approved a sales tax of up to 20 percent on Tuesday, setting the stage for a vote in the full House.

The sales tax would replace a tax on growers that was originally approved by voters as part of last year’s Measure 91.

Lawmakers say they’re aiming for a tax rate and method that allows legal marijuana to compete with pot from the black market. Medical marijuana users would not have to pay the tax.

Using and growing marijuana becomes legal in Oregon on July 1, but the state won’t be ready by then to set up retail sales. Lawmakers have not yet decided when sales should start.