State receiving first tax payments from marijuana businesses

Published: Nov. 29, 2016 at 4:38 PM AKST
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Tax dollars from Alaska’s new marijuana industry have finally begun flowing into state coffers, with the first cash payments from pot businesses being made in Anchorage this week.

Leif Abel, co-owner and co-founder of Greatland Ganja in Kasilof, arrived at the Permanent Fund Dividend office in downtown Anchorage Tuesday morning to pay $5,600 in taxes for one of his cultivation business’s first sales. He is the second marijuana business owner to pay his taxes in cash; the first deposit was made Monday evening, according to the Department of Revenue.

“We’re proud to be able to come in and pay our first marijuana tax. It’s something that we’ve been we’ve been working toward for between two and three years now so it’s nice to finally reach this day,” Abel said. “It’s kind of as big of a day as our first sale was to us.”

Inside the PFD office, a specially constructed drop box allows any Alaska business owner to drop off cash payments for their taxes. The machine was installed just recently to help meet the growing needs of marijuana taxpayers in Alaska.

Currently the Anchorage location is the only place in Alaska where businesses can drop off cash to make tax payments. According to Kelly Mazzei with the Alaska Tax Division, the Department of Revenue provides other options to business owner to pay their taxes. Cash, money orders and tax returns can be sent through registered mail and payments can be made electronically using an online service called Revenue Now.

But a major challenge facing the marijuana industry is the lack of banking options available to businesses under federal regulations. Abel says his cultivation business mostly deals in cash because most banks and credit unions won’t allow him to open an account. That means he has to pay his taxes in cash, and prepares to do so by delivering the money in person.

“My retailers pay me mostly in cash and right now the banks won’t give Greatland Ganja a bank account, the credit unions won’t give Greatland Ganja a bank account. And so unless I want to do some sort of financial acrobatics, I have cash and that’s what I have to give to the state,” Abel said.

While Alaska’s budding marijuana industry still faces numerous challenges in the months ahead, Abel praised the tax system set up by the state, saying it proved to be efficient and easy to follow.