Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The sale of cannabis in California went legal in 2016, and retailers were able to open their doors two years later. Along with the legal retail sale of cannabis came two new taxes — a cultivation tax on all harvests and an excise tax on the purchase of weed and products made with it; the usual sales taxes, both state and local, also applied. They add up, and in the third quarter of 2020, California’s total cannabis tax revenue was $306.7 million. Of that amount, the state gained sales and excise tax on $11 million worth of retail cannabis sold in cities in Santa Barbara County.

For $30 worth of cannabis flower, or buds, the taxes can raise the consumer’s payment to $41.77, the state Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) calculated. That includes a 15 percent excise tax and the state’s 8.5 percent sales tax. The CDTFA also added a 10 percent cannabis business tax, which is charged by most California jurisdictions, although Santa Barbara County’s cities’ rate is 5-6 percent. The cultivation tax is paid by weight when the farmer sells to a distributor.

The breakdown of the $306 million in taxes are excise tax of $159.8 million, cultivation tax of $41 million, and sales tax of $105.9 million. For the previous year’s July to September, the cannabis taxes to the state were $170.8 million.

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The previous quarter, or April through June, generated $260 million for the state, and the first quarter of January to March generated close to $206 million. Santa Barbara County’s retail cannabis sales saw a similar move upward from the first to second quarter, the Tax and Fee Administration reported. January to March sales were $9 million, and April to May sales were $16.7 million. Many speculate the increase is due to the shutdown.

Santa Barbara County has yet to permit any retail cannabis stores and is in the process of determining where eight will go in the county’s unincorporated areas. If the $11 million in sales would have occurred in county areas, the income would have been about $441,000 with the county’s 4 percent retail cannabis tax, said Jeff Frapwell of the County Executive Office.

Correction: Santa Barbara County plans eight retail cannabis stores, not six; and this story has been updated to reflect local business tax amounts.

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