New 3% pot tax passes Cook County Board

The tax would be imposed on “all persons engaged in the business of selling cannabis.”

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The county’s proposed Cannabis Retailers’ Occupation Tax will be imposed on “all persons engaged in the business of selling cannabis,” but wouldn’t apply to medical cannabis dispensaries.


The county’s 3% cannabis retailers tax passed the full Cook County Board of Commissioners Thursday, meaning taxes on some recreational pot products sold in Chicago could exceed 41% by July.

The tax would be imposed on “all persons engaged in the business of selling cannabis.”

Though the tax would be on retailers’ gross receipts, commissioners have said the tax would likely be shifted onto those buying pot.

That 3% would be in addition to the city’s 3% planned tax and current state excise taxes of 10-25%, based on the level of THC, the ingredient in pot that gets users high, in the product purchased. Marijuana products also carry normal sales taxes — which in Chicago are 10.25% — meaning some products could carry taxes of 41.25% starting this summer.

The 3% figure is the highest the county can tax, according to state law. The county wouldn’t be able to start collecting revenue from drug sales until July.

Commissioners — who voted 13-0 in favor of the tax — have said the tax is needed to pay for potential increases in health and policing costs due to legalization.

Four commissioners — Sean Morrison, R-Palos Park, Bridget Degnen, D-Chicago, Stanley Moore, D-Chicago, and Peter Silvestri, R-Elmwood Park — voted present on the matter.

While the total taxes are high, they are less than what’s charged to buy a pack of cigarettes in Chicago. Federal, state and local taxes are more than $8 on a pack of cigarettes, which can cost $14-16 in the city.

The board also passed measures to create a cannabis commission that would study legalization’s impact on the county and a zoning ordinance governing pot-related retailers opening in unincorporated Cook.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at her press conference after the county’s board meeting that the measures are about “fairness in our criminal justice system” not her “personal consumption habits.”

“I’ve always made it quite clear my reasons for supporting legalization have nothing to do with my own personal consumption — I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’m not inclined to use marijuana in any way,” Preckwinkle said.

“This is about substances out there that are widely used, and whether or not it should be illegal, and my view has always been legal especially since the only people who get arrested for possession are black and brown kids. I always said, you know, [if] we’re not going to arrest white kids for this, we shouldn’t arrest anybody.”

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