One year into legal recreational cannabis sales in Washington, we are seeing some big numbers when it comes to tax revenue. The Washington State Liquor Control Board — which oversees marijuana sales — is reporting that roughly $257 million in pot has been sold in the last year, raking in about $64 million in taxes. When you add in local taxes from within the state, that number tops $70 million, about twice what was originally predicted.
Considering the fact that sales and tax revenue have gone up every month, it’s safe to say that $70 million is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tax revenues for Washington. These numbers are showing a lot of (skeptical) people just what cannabis is capable of when it comes to generating taxes.
In a perfect world, marijuana would not be taxed. This is the reason some people favor decriminalization over legalization. But legalization is necessary because retail sales are necessary. Not everyone has the wherewithal and/or finances to grow cannabis indoors. And with retail sales will come taxes; anyone who thinks otherwise is quite delusional.
Having said that, activists need to do their best to keep tax rates as low as possible. Another advantage of legalization and retail sales is the undercutting of the black market, but this only happens if retail prices are below — or at least competitive with — black market prices. Moving the cannabis market into the legal realm will bring about a drop in prices, but if taxes are too high they could negate that price drop and send people back to the black market.
In the end, this is yet another opportunity for those who support legalization to say “I told you so.” Tax money from marijuana sales is money that used to go to drug dealers; now it can go to schools and roads and all the other things the government spends money on.