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Our view: State must clarify tax rules on recreational pot

Public interest in greater disclosure

Published on September 26, 2017 12:01AM

Oregon’s rules on disclosure of tax collections on recreational marijuana sales are blurry and need refining.

As they are now, the disclosure rules put cities, including those on the North Coast and others in rural areas, in an awkward position because the state’s rules on what can and can’t be disclosed create a conflict with local budget requirements to publicly account for all incoming money.

Most cities that passed marijuana taxes signed agreements with the state Department of Revenue for collection. Usually when the state reports on tax collections and other economic data there are regional and city-by-city breakdowns. As a result, the state required confidentiality agreements with the cities to ensure information about tax returns from individual businesses is protected so the data couldn’t be used by anyone to gain a competitive edge.

In regions where there are only a few pot shops, individual business information could be discerned from public documents if a city accurately accounts for that money in its financial statements or annual budget. To stay within the rules, cities have taken different approaches. In Astoria, for instance, the city didn’t include revenue projections for pot dollars in its budget for the fiscal year. As we reported Friday, only City Finance Director Susan Brooks knows how much has come in and resides in the city’s accounts.

Developing clear rules for the budding growth of marijuana sales has been a work in progress since voters approved recreational sales. The state Department of Justice is expected to issue a legal opinion on the tax collections and disclosure rules, and it must to clear up the conflicts.

The type of secrecy and nondisclosure caused by the confidentiality agreements and their interpretation isn’t in the public interest. Taxpayers should know that when viewing a city’s financial statement or budget that all the money is accounted for, and right now the rules prevent that.

It must change.


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