Local marijuana grower speaks out against pot tax

Josephine County, Ore. — A follow to a story NBC5 News brought you Thursday. Josephine County Commissioner Dan DeYoung, along with other local leaders, has proposed a multi-county initiative to change the way marijuana crops are taxed.

The initiative involves all five southwest Oregon counties. It calls for recreational growers to be taxed on the square footage of their canopy. Medicinal growers would pay taxes based on the number of plants. The money would go directly back to the counties – and, in some cases, pay for services like law enforcement.

While the idea still has to get approval in Salem and go to voters, growers already have strong opinions about it. NBC5 News spoke to one local grower Friday who said, he’ll tolerate paying a tax – but to a certain amount.

He wants local leaders and the public to know, many cannabis growers aren’t making enough for their business to survive. Let alone, taking a chunk out of their profits to pay for another tax.

“If they hit us too hard, I would move my farm out of this county for sure,” said Fred Tamayo, cannabis grower in Josephine County.

He said growing cannabis in the county is like throwing dollars at dimes for business.

“It’s pretty slow. I have a store and without my store, my farm would be out of business,” Tamayo said.

He says the market in Josephine county is saturated, because marijuana has become a commodity.

“It’s just like tobacco, it’s just like corn, it’s just like anything else,” Tamayo said.

He says he thinks the public and local leaders believe growers make millions, but sai that’s far from true since legalization, because of the extra costs growers pay to meet regulation.

“It’s costing everyone money all the way through,” Tamayo said.

Tamayo’s seen the cannabis business through it all – black market, medicinal, and now recreational.

“We walk the same walk that they do. We are those people, we came from there. I’m not going to support something for our government that is going to tear people’s lives apart,” Tamayo said.

He says while the initiative could add more law enforcement and shut down the black market, he won’t support it.

“I don’t think that they should ask us for enforcement money that would try and go after people that are trying to make a living,” Tamayo said.

He says he understands the motive to gain more money for services like public safety – but also said, they’re asking the wrong people.

“I get where they’re coming from, but don’t ask me to support you in it. If you want money to enforce illegal marijuana grows – ask your government for it. Don’t ask the marijuana growers,” Tamayo said.

The initiative still has to go through Salem in February, before it’s put into the hands of voters on November’s ballot. Even though marijuana is illegal on the federal level, marijuana growers are supposed to pay taxes to the IRS.

This year, growers will owe nearly $3 billion in federal taxes. That’s based on estimates by new Frontier data. Here’s something you may not know any illegal drug dealer is required to pay taxes on the money they make from drugs. It’s spelled out in a tax code that’s been in place for years.

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