Proposed Federal Tax Could Shake Up Cannabis Industry
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How Proposed Legislation
Affects the Cannabis Industry
May 28, 2017

Proposed Federal Excise Tax Could Squeeze Legal Cannabis Sales

  • In March, the Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2017 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).
  • The bill, as proposed, would establish a federal tax on all legal sales of cannabis in the United States.  The tax rate would begin at 10% on retail sales of cannabis in 2018 and increase to a maximum of 25% five years after implementation.
  • These tax rates on cannabis are much higher than existing effective federal excise taxes on alcohol, which has a rate of 4.5% and cigarettes, which has a rate of 12.5%
  • Growth potential for the cannabis industry may be severely limited by these tax rates as it could increase the retail price of cannabis significantly.
  • States like Washington, which already imposes a 37% state excise tax on cannabis on top of state sales tax and local taxes, would see the total tax rate on cannabis exceeding 60% under the proposed bill.
  • The proposal of a federal tax on cannabis is a positive development for the industry in the push for national legalization.  However, a new tax not harmonized with existing state-level taxes might lead to a resurgence of the illicit market as consumers seek cheaper alternatives.
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