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US (AK): Why nearly 50 of Alaska’s cannabis growers are behind on their taxes

Alaskans may be wondering why nearly 50 of Alaska’s cannabis growers are behind on their taxes by a total of more than $2 million. We certainly find it interesting.

The Alaska Department of Revenue says some cultivators owe the state less than $200, while others owe thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, and one company owes hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of the 47 growers with tax debts to the state as of Jan. 31, 28 were on a payment plan, out of business or carried a balance of less than $200.

Alaskans in 2014 approved Ballot Measure 2, which legalized the recreational use of cannabis and called for its regulation by the state. In fact, if you will remember, the theme of the campaign to pass the ballot measure was that the state should tax and regulate cannabis just like it does alcohol.

It has not been easy for the young industry and there have been myriad problems. There are high costs, transportation and logistical problems, a complicated and expensive permitting system, banking pitfalls because cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and it is difficult to even find places outside the home where visitors legally can smoke or ingest cannabis. All those are impediments, but one of the industry’s biggest complaints is how it is taxed by the state. The industry says it is unfair. Other states tax cannabis on a percentage-based scale, which allow adjustment for market changes. In Alaska, the tax is levied at a flat rate and we are the only state to do so.


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