Park County voters to decide on 3% marijuana tax

By 
John Carroll
Friday, October 22, 2021
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Pre-rolled joints are lined up inside Ganga Goddess in Livingston on Thursday. Enterprise photo by John Carroll

Park County voters will decide on a 3% local-option marijuana excise tax on Nov. 2 and some residents are wondering where the money will go if the ballot issue passes.

Steve Caldwell, chairman of the Park County Commission, confirmed on Thursday that the tax proceeds would be distributed as follows: 50% to Park County; 45% to the cities of Livingston and Clyde Park; and 5% to the state of Montana for “administrative costs.”

To break down the allocation of proceeds even further, Caldwell said that of the 50% directed to county coffers “half would go to law enforcement and half would go to the general fund.”

“It’s not a major issue on the ballot,” said Caldwell. “We don’t expect the proceeds to be all that significant.”

Park County voters approved the legal sale of recreational marijuana last fall. The state of Montana is set to collect a 20% tax on recreational marijuana sales starting Jan. 1. That compares to a 4% tax on the sale of medicinal marijuana.

Now voters have the opportunity to apply an additional 3% local excise tax on the retail value of all marijuana products sold at adultuse dispensaries and medical marijuana locations within Park County.

Matthew Hersh, general manager of Ganja Goddess, a marijuana grower and retailer in Livingston, said taxing legal marijuana will only increase prices and boost the illegal sale of weed.

“If the cost is higher, less people will want it and more people will turn to buying it off the street,” said Hersh. “Adding more taxes to the legal sale of marijuana only keeps the black market competitive, and it’s already very difficult to compete with the black market.”

Ganja Goddess has legal marijuana dispensaries is Butte, Bozeman, Missoula, Helena and Livingston. “We are all above board,” said Hersh. “All of our product is tested for potency and pesticides.”

Commissioner Caldwell said he has no position on the proposed 3% tax. “It’s up to the voters,” he said.

Despite his opposition to the 3% tax, Hersh believes the measure will most likely pass.

“I think it will pass but I don’t want it to,” he said. “It benefits criminal growers who don’t pay any taxes at all.”