Oregon has collected $65.4 million in marijuana business tax payments since January 2016. Pictured: Sally Vander Veer of Medicine Man dispensary in Colorado hands over bags of cash to pay Medicine Man's state taxes. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)

Oregon marijuana tax revenue is crushing original estimates

SALEM, Ore. — The marijuana business in Oregon is becoming a bonanza for the state.

The Oregon Department of Revenue announced Tuesday it received $5.3 million in marijuana tax payments in January. The grand total of $65.4 million received in the year since Oregon started taxing pot sales is blowing the original estimate out of the water.

Related: Report: America’s marijuana industry headed for $24 billion by 2025

In January 2016, the state started collecting a 25-percent tax from medical marijuana dispensaries’ recreational sales. A year later, recreational pot shops — which first opened in Oregon five months ago — began charging a 17 percent tax. Meanwhile, dispensaries stopped selling recreational pot.

Even though the tax rate has dropped, money is still flowing into state coffers. Still, it is a drop in the ocean compared to an expected $1.8 billion budget shortfall, which the Legislature is now trying to resolve.

“The (marijuana tax) numbers … suggest very strong collection,” said Mazen Malik, senior economist with the Legislature. “Thus it suggests that the transition is being implemented successfully and the consumers are continuing to buy at the rate we saw last year.”

Last May, the Legislative Revenue Office quadrupled its estimate of net marijuana tax revenues that the state was expected to receive through June 30 of this year — from $8.4 million to $35 million.

The actual total pot tax payments are now almost double that revised amount, and five more months of tax collections remain before June 30.

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