Oregon tax charges highlight ongoing risk for marijuana companies

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(This story has been updated from an earlier version after The Register-Guard revised its article. The newspaper noted the charges against Mark Price are considered a misdemeanor.)  

A pair of tax-related cases announced in Oregon have refocused the spotlight on the risks marijuana companies run if they’re not transparent with the Internal Revenue Service.

According to The Oregonian and The Register-Guard, a Portland dispensary co-owner has been charged with tax evasion related to at least two MJ retail shops the company runs, while a certified public accountant was also charged with tax evasion and wire fraud in connection with a cannabis cultivation venture he owns.

The dispensary co-owner, Matthew Price, is accused of not paying more than $262,000 in federal taxes owed to the IRS based on income from his company, Cannabliss. The allegations are considered a misdemeanor, The Register-Guard noted.

The tax bills date back to before Price was apparently licensed through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, The Register-Guard reported. He also previously ran a legal cannabis farmers’ market that also operated under the name Cannabliss.

The accountant, Nathan Wheeler, has been accused of illegally diverting investor money to bolster his cannabis grow operation. Those charges stemmed from two raids in 2014 and 2015, The Oregonian reported.

Wheeler is also accused of misusing $4.4 million in investor funding while also not paying taxes on that money.