For Local Governments, Marijuana Tax Collection is No Easy Ride

The promise of increased tax revenue has been the number one enticement for cities and counties opening their doors to the marijuana industry. But as it turns out, collecting those taxes is tough business.

At the office of Monterey County’s Treasurer-Tax Collector, gun-toting guards now stand sentry over the parking lot and entry door.

A newly renovated front office now serves as a secure drop-off point for taxpayers carrying duffel bags full of cash (payments made by appointment only). A fleet of state-of-the-art currency counters stand ready to speedily tally unprecedented sums of paper bills. And the regularly scheduled armored truck pickups are now passing through at a quicker clip.

The marijuana industry’s blackout from traditional banking is just one, albeit major, part of the problem. Municipalities are also grappling with finding appropriate tax rates and keeping tabs on licensed dealers vs. illicit ones. In the case of questionable activity, many wonder, how do you even conduct an audit of a marijuana farm?

In spite of the challenges, Monterey Treasurer-Tax Collector Mary Zeeb says the county is doing pretty well. “We had a very steep learning curve,” Zeeb admits. In many ways, the state is facing the same challenges -- or at least will soon.  

So far, Monterey has taken in $700,000 from 60 growers, but more is waiting in the wings. Read more about its challenges and successes and those of other local governments here



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