Arizona AG Wants to Tax Medical Pot

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne opposed a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana, but now he’s calling for it to be taxed.

State tax collectors say that’s exactly what they plan to do.

Arizona tax law exempts prescriptions from taxation. But medical marijuana, under the law approved by voters in November, would be sold to patients with “certification” from their physician.

“It’s not a prescription. It’s a written certification,” said Anthony Forschino, a spokesman for the state Department of Revenue. “It would just be a retail sale, like buying something off the shelf or over the counter.”

Proposition 203 allows licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and Alzheimer’s disease.

Patients would register for identification cards with the Arizona Department of Health Services. They could receive up to 21/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from dispensaries or cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants if they live 25 miles or farther from a dispensary.

Marijuana dispensary owners would have to apply for a sales-tax license. The health department expects to grant dispensary licenses by late spring or early summer, following a series of public hearings.

Horne said Wednesday he believes a medical marijuana tax could bring in $40 million a year. He said his estimate was based on Colorado’s experience.

At the Legislature, there appears to be bipartisan support for a pot tax.

If the revenue department needs legislation to implement it, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said lawmakers from both parties are ready to pass it. Campbell also said he’s heard revenue estimates well north of $40 million.

Andrew Myers of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, which spearheaded the initiative drive, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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