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Proposal would tax marijuana trade names, devote money to ag research

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on March 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
March 5, 2013 3:21 pm

A bewildering array of different strains of marijuana is available at local medical-cannabis stores, if the pot-reviewing website Leafly is any guide. There’s Blue Diesel, Black Widow, Berkeley, Banana Kush, Big Budda Cheese — and those are just some of the Bs, in a list of more than 200. Then there are the names of the many stores themselves.

Creators can’t exactly go to the patent office to trademark their creative names for a federally illegal product, but with recreational marijuana sales about to be legal and taxed in Washington, those names could be worth a lot of money. And it could mean extra revenue for state government, said Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, who is sponsoring House Bill 1976.

Drew Perine/Staff photographerThe measure introduced today taxes “all trademarks, trade names, brand names, patents and copyrights that are related to marijuana,” with the tax set at $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The revenue, under Morris’s plan, would go to agricultural research intended to benefit health. It would be placed into a fund along with money from the state’s share of the legal settlement with tobacco companies.

Morris said Washington State University is doing exciting research in areas like the potential for gluten-free wheat and substitutes for plasma in blood.

He said legalization in Washington and Colorado is “one of the few times in the history of capitalism” that such a large market has come into existence overnight with the need for new trade names. ”This is such a unique opportunity. There’s going to be an inherent, intangible value to having that trade name,” he said. “What’s the value of McDonald’s as a brand name vs. Joe’s Burger Stand?”

Morris said the House Finance Committee plans to hold a public hearing on the bill.

He isn’t the only one calling dibs on money raised in connection to voters’ legalization of marijuana last November. Rep. Ruth Kagi has proposed putting revenue from taxes created by Initiative 502 into an expansion of preschool programs.

Of course, all this assumes that legalization will actually take effect. Several former federal anti-drug officials are calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to sue the two states to shut down their preparations.

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