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State panel: Medical pot can be taxed

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If Florida ever approves medical marijuana for sale in the state, expect to pay tax on it.

Medical pot is “tangible personal property” that is “subject to sales and use tax,” a state economics panel has found.

“Annual state and local government sales tax revenues could increase by an estimated $67 million after taking into account lawful consumption of medical marijuana,” according to a summary of its report posted online this week.

The Financial Impact Estimating Conference also determined that marijuana “is currently not classified and likely will not be classified as a common household remedy,” and therefore wouldn’t qualify for a tax exemption, it said.

The conference finished its report as part of a review for a proposed constitutional amendment aimed for the 2016 ballot. A Supreme Court review of the amendment is pending.

Proposed amendments also need 683,149 signatures to get on the ballot; the marijuana initiative had 307,761 as of Friday, according to the Division of Elections. Once on the ballot, initiatives need 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

“The report was essentially what we expected,” said Ben Pollara, head of Orlando-based People United for Medical Marijuana. The committee is behind the medical marijuana amendment.

“We are pushing this amendment for the benefit of sick and suffering Floridians, not because of the potential economic impact,” he added. “I only wish there were a state agency analyzing the potential positive impact on all the people medical marijuana could help in Florida.”

In other findings from the conference report, the Department of Health estimated that it will take on “$2.7 million in annual costs for its regulatory responsibilities, upon full implementation.”

“These costs may be offset by fees charged to the medical marijuana industry and users,” the summary said. “However, the imposition of fees may require further action by the Legislature.”

Less clear was whether any agricultural-related exemptions applied to the sale or production of medical marijuana, it said, using information from the state’s Revenue and Agriculture departments.

“Should the exemptions apply, the direct sale or dispensation of medical marijuana in its raw form by the grower or cultivator to an end-user or designated caregiver would be exempt,” the conference said. “This uncertainty also applies to exemptions for items used in the production of medical marijuana such as power farm equipment, fertilizer and pesticides.”

Also undetermined was the extra costs of law enforcement, based on data from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, and the Florida Sheriffs Association.

The full 22-page report is here.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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