Alaska marijuana grower Leif Abel considers his business successful but still feels like he’s living “paycheck to paycheck” much of the time.
A greenhouse expansion is behind schedule, and he said the company could have hired more crews to work on it if taxes and other expenses weren’t so high.
“We don’t have enough of a cushion where we could comfortably have a crop failure, and that’s not a very safe place for a cultivation company to be,” said Abel, an owner of Greatland Ganja in the Kenai Peninsula community of Kasilof.
Abel is among a number of Alaska pot growers who have struggled to pay the state’s $50-per-ounce cannabis tax as marijuana prices have tumbled. He said he’s paid his taxes on time, but it hasn’t always been easy.
Forty-five growers in the state are delinquent, compared to six a year ago, according to figures provided by Alaska’s Department of Revenue. For the June tax filing period, more than 160 growers had filed a tax return with the state.
The cannabis tax is imposed on cultivators when pot is sold or transferred from a grow facility to a retail shop or product manufacturer. There is a lesser tax rate for immature bud and trimmings.
Among states that have legalized recreational cannabis, Alaska is the only one whose tax structure is built solely on a fixed dollar amount paid by growers, according to information compiled by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a public policy organization. Alaska has no statewide sales tax, though some municipalities, like Anchorage, levy their own sales tax on weed.
By comparison, California has a fixed dollar amount cultivators must pay and has a 15% tax on retail sales. Local governments in that state can add a levy on top of the state