Local marijuana taxes have more than doubled the annual general fund revenue for Huntington and Sumpter, the two Baker County cities that have pot stores.
Huntington, where the city’s (and county’s) first marijuana dispensary opened in February 2016, brought in $631,000 in pot taxes during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018. That was more than three times the city’s general fund revenue before marijuana taxes were collected.
Huntington has three marijuana-related businesses — two recreational dispensaries and a wholesale marijuana growing and processing operation.
The city of 445 residents, near Interstate 84 about 45 miles southeast of Baker City, collects three sources of pot taxes:
• A city-approved 3-percent tax on all sales. This is by far the largest of the three sources, generating $587,000 in the previous fiscal year.
• A city business license fee on marijuana businesses, which generated $30,525
• The city’s share of a state sales tax on marijuana, totaling $13,527
The city tax revenue by itself is more than four times as much as Huntington collected from local property taxes, which is typically the largest source of general fund revenue for cities.
Huntington has collected about $115,000 per year in property taxes over the past three fiscal years.
The city’s new mayor, Richard Cummings, said the City Council doesn’t have specific plans for how to spend the new tax revenues, but councilors will be discussing the issue soon.
He would like to see the city spend some of the money to repair streets, some of which aren’t paved.
Other potential uses include building restrooms at the city park, digging a new municipal well and installing a new water tank, Cummings said.
The city has already been able to pay off tax bonds for city projects, as well as give raises to city employees.
Based on the 3-percent tax, marijuana businesses in Huntington generated about $20 million in gross sales during the fiscal year.
Cummings said that although he didn’t support Oregon’s legalization of recreational marijuana, as mayor he doesn’t object to the pot-related businesses so long as they comply with state laws.
“They’ve been good as far as the revenue part, but along with that they have also brought a lot of traffic,” Cummings said.
He said thefts in town have increased since the businesses opened, and he would like to see more of a police presence in Huntington. The city doesn’t have its own police department but it contracts with the Baker County Sheriff’s Office to have a local deputy.
Cummings had previously served on the Huntington City Council. Although he wasn’t on the Nov. 6 ballot he was elected as mayor as a write-in candidate.
In Sumpter, population 210, the two marijuana shops, both of which opened in 2017, generated about $50,000 in local taxes during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018.
That’s more than twice the city’s property tax revenue that year.
Unlike Huntington, Sumpter doesn’t assess a yearly business license fee for marijuana businesses.
Sumpter used some of its new revenue last year to apply dust-abating oil on some of its streets, most of which are gravel.
See more in the Jan. 11, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.