[dropcap class=”kp-dropcap”]O[/dropcap]regon cannabis sales are bringing in lots of tax dollars for the cash-strapped state. According to the state of Oregon’s cannabis tax statistics, tax revenue generated from cannabis in Fiscal Year 2018 totaled $82,203,729. With all this extra revenue, it’s easy to assume the cannabis industry is more than paying for itself. But some lawmakers don’t think the cannabis industry is paying its fair share to Oregon utility companies. A bill pending in the Oregon Legislature, House Bill 2672, is currently seeking to reimburse utility agencies for the cost of cannabis regulation.
Oregon legislators Rep. Brad Witt and Sen. Bill Hansell are the chief sponsors of HB-2672, the title of which is “Authorizes Department of Revenue to reimburse State Department of Agriculture, State Department of Energy and Water Resources Department for expenses incurred in administration and enforcement of activities related to cannabis.”
It has cost Oregon’s natural resource agencies millions of dollars to aid the state’s cannabis industry with growth, regulation and policing, according to the Statesman Journal. If these agencies aren’t reimbursed, then customers will have to pay the price via increased fees. HB-2672 does not specify the exact amount of money to be reimbursed, but lawmakers are considering a cap on the amount.
With all of the resources necessary to grow cannabis, it’s easy to assume that utility companies are burdened by the extra needs of a new large-scale industry. But is that the case? Not when it comes to the Oregon Department of Energy. “The Oregon Department of Energy developed a calculator for indoor cannabis growers, and we provide technical resources to growers, just like we do for other Oregon industries and businesses—but we have not seen an unexpected increase in workload from cannabis to date,” Public Affairs & Outreach Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Energy Jennifer Kalez told CULTURE.
Kalez also told CULTURE that the agency did not have an official position regarding HB-2672. CULTURE reached out to the State Department of Agriculture and the State Department of Water Resources but did not receive a response.
“The Oregon Department of Energy developed a calculator for indoor cannabis growers, and we provide technical resources to growers, just like we do for other Oregon industries and businesses—but we have not seen an unexpected increase in workload from cannabis to date.”
In late March, the bill was scheduled for a work session hearing. The bill received a subsequent referral to the Oregon Ways and Means Committee, which means that it won’t go straight to the house after it makes it out of work session, but will have to make it out of both the work session and the Oregon’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means first.
It remains to be seen whether or not HB-2672 will pass into law. It will be interesting to see if lawmakers can make the case that the cannabis industry is costing state utility agencies enough to warrant tax dollars being appropriated towards them. If the Oregon Department of Energy hasn’t received an unexpected workload increase, it’s hard to imagine that other utility agencies have been notably adversely affected. While it’s important that the cannabis industry sets a positive precedent by being financially sustainable, HB-2672 will have to prove that this legislation is not just a cash grab.