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Navigating Cannabis Industry Taxes: A Guide by Vertical

How to handle cannabis taxes based on the vertical you operate in the marijuana industry.

The cannabis industry is booming and its growth comes with a complex set of tax implications that are unique to each segment of the industry. From cultivation to retail, navigating the tax landscape requires careful planning and attention to detail. To stay compliant and maximize deductions, accurate record-keeping, and cost accounting are essential. Redbud Advisors, a full-service accounting firm specializing in the cannabis industry, is well-positioned to help businesses understand the tax challenges specific to their vertical. In this blog, we'll provide an overview of the tax implications for cannabis cultivators, processors, and dispensaries, and share valuable tips for minimizing tax liability and ensuring compliance with state and federal tax laws.

Cannabis taxes for Grow Operations.

Grow Operations

For cannabis cultivators, tax deductions are limited due to Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, which prohibits deductions for businesses that traffic in controlled substances. However, there are still deductions available for certain expenses related to production, such as labor costs, rent, and utilities. Proper record-keeping and cost accounting are crucial for cultivators to accurately track their expenses and maximize their deductions.

Labor Costs

Labor costs for employees directly involved in the cultivation process are deductible. This includes wages, salaries, bonuses, and benefits for employees who handle tasks such as planting, harvesting, trimming, and packaging the cannabis plants. However, labor costs for employees not directly involved in the cultivation process, such as salespeople or administrative staff, are not deductible.


Rent for the facility where the cannabis is grown is deductible, as long as the area being rented is solely used for cultivation. If any portion of the rented area is used for non-cultivation purposes, such as office space, the deduction must be prorated based on the percentage of the space used for cultivation.


The costs of utilities used for the cultivation process, such as water and electricity, are deductible. However, like rent, if any portion of the utilities is used for non-cultivation purposes, the deduction must be prorated based on the percentage of the utilities used for cultivation.

Cannabis taxes for Processor Operations

Processor Operations

Cannabis processors, which extract and refine plant material to create products such as concentrates and edibles, face similar tax challenges as cultivators. Section 280E limits deductions for businesses that process cannabis, but deductions are available for expenses related to manufacturing, such as equipment and raw materials. Accurate record-keeping and cost accounting are critical for processors to track their expenses and minimize their tax liability.


Cannabis processors require specialized equipment for their operations, such as extraction machines, ovens, and packaging equipment. These equipment costs can be deducted as business expenses, as long as they are used exclusively for the production of cannabis products. Expenses related to the maintenance, repair, or upgrade of equipment may also be included as deductible under Costs of Goods Sold.

Raw Materials

The cost of raw materials, such as flower and trim, used in the production of cannabis products can also be deducted as business expenses. However, any expenses related to the acquisition or transportation of raw materials may not be fully deductible under Section 280E. Proper record-keeping of all expenses related to raw materials is essential to minimize tax liability.

Accurate Record-Keeping

As mentioned earlier, accurate record-keeping is critical for all cannabis businesses, including processors, to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations and minimize their tax liability. Processors must keep detailed records of all expenses related to production, such as equipment, raw materials, labor costs, and rent. We recommend keeping a cash log to stay on top of your income and expenses.

Cost Accounting

Cost accounting is the process of identifying, analyzing, and allocating all costs associated with producing a product. This is particularly important for processors, who must accurately track the cost of production for each batch of cannabis products to determine their cost of goods sold (COGS). Accurate COGS calculations are necessary to maximize deductions and reduce tax liability. A cannabis-specific accounting firm like Redbud Advisors can provide valuable assistance with cost accounting and other tax-related issues for processors and other cannabis businesses.

Cannabis taxes for Dispensary Operations

Dispensary Operations

Dispensaries, which sell cannabis products directly to consumers, face a different set of tax challenges. Unlike cultivators and processors, dispensaries are the most limited vertical to allocate expenses under COGS due to IRC Section 280E. This means that they cannot deduct many of the normal business expenses that other retailers can, such as advertising, employee wages, and rent.

However, there are some deductions available to dispensaries. For instance, they can deduct expenses related to the production of cannabis, such as testing costs and packaging materials. Additionally, dispensaries may be able to claim deductions for expenses related to their ancillary services, such as consulting or education. Redbud Advisors have many tips to help increase your dispensary revenue.

In addition to complying with IRC 280E, dispensaries must navigate a complex web of state and local taxes, including sales tax and excise tax.

Sales Tax

Tax on the sale of goods or services that is paid by the consumer at the time of purchase. The rate of sales tax varies by state and locality, and some states exempt certain items from sales tax, such as groceries or prescription drugs. In the cannabis industry, dispensaries are typically required to collect and remit sales tax to the state and/or local government on all products sold.

Excise Tax

Tax on a specific product or activity, such as the sale of cannabis or tobacco. In the cannabis industry, the excise tax is typically imposed at the state level and is based on the weight or potency of the cannabis product sold. For example, a state may impose a tax of $1 per gram of cannabis flower sold by a dispensary. Excise tax is typically paid by the business selling the product, but the cost may be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

While dispensaries face unique tax challenges, proper accounting and tax planning can help them minimize their tax liability and ensure compliance with state and local tax laws. By maximizing their deductions and understanding the tax laws in their state and locality, dispensaries can operate more efficiently and effectively in the ever-growing cannabis industry.

Learn about how different verticles in the cannabis industry are effected by cannabis taxes.


It is important for cannabis businesses to work with a full-service accounting firm that specializes in the industry and understands the unique tax challenges faced by each vertical.

Redbud Advisors has extensive experience in the cannabis industry and can provide guidance on tax planning, record-keeping, and compliance with state and federal tax laws. With their assistance, businesses can navigate the complex tax landscape of the cannabis industry and maximize their profits while staying compliant with regulations.

Whether you're in cannabis grow operations, processor operations, or dispensary operations, navigating the complex tax landscape can be challenging. At Redbud Advisors, our team of tax and accounting experts specialize solely in the cannabis industry and can help you maximize deductions, stay compliant with state and federal regulations, and minimize your tax liability. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business thrive in this rapidly growing industry.

Redbud Advisors are a full-service cannabis accounting firm.

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