KALISPELL - Flathead County residents will vote on 3% marijuana sales tax options for both recreational and medicinal purposes on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
State taxes are currently set at 4% for medical marijuana and 20% for adult-use recreational sales. However, sales would see an increase if voters approve local tax options.
Proponents of the tax increase say the funds could bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for the county. But opponents say an increased tax — specifically for medicinal users — could be devastating for a user base already struggling with medical costs for cancer treatments, PTSD, and more.
Tamarack Cannabis in Kalispell has been selling marijuana for recreational use for less than a year but has served medical patients for more than a decade.
“We’ve actually been around since 2009, so we’re operating in our 13th year of being a dispensary here in Montana,” said owner Erin Bolster.
“We have medical patients with ailments ranging from cancer, Parkinson’s, veterans with PTSD, pain management patients, autoimmune diseases, a lot of different things that are treated with cannabis,” added Bolster.
Bolster said Tamarack Cannabis currently covers the 4% state tax for their medical marijuana customers, they won’t be able to afford to cover an additional 3%.
“Health insurance does not cover cannabis so this is already a healthcare cost that they have to pay 100% out of pocket, so this tax would also come 100% right out of those people’s pockets,” added Bolster.
If approved, the sales tax could bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars into the county’s general fund.
Bolster asks residents to differentiate between the recreational and medical tax when addressing the community’s needs.
“Our community definitely has some needs that need to be addressed here in the Flathead, and if a recreational tax helps to pay those needs, I think that’s a balance that a lot of people should consider for themselves," Bolster said. "But the medical tax absolutely not, it’s just going to hurt the sickest among us, and let’s find some other sources of funding."
She said a large portion of her medicinal customers are senior citizens on fixed incomes, an increased tax could be devastating.
“So, when you think about that 3% medical tax that we’re voting on, the people that I want people to picture who’s paying that tax, it’s that wounded veteran who’s paying that tax, it’s your grandma who’s fighting cancer who’s going to be paying that tax. "And these are not the people that I think this community wants to put more burden on,” Bolster told MTN News.
The county commissioner’s office tells MTN News that if approved, a public comment session will be held to determine where revenue should be spread throughout the general fund. The tax would go into effect 90 days after the election.