Marijuana Legalization
5:58 am
Mon August 13, 2012

What Are The Budget Impacts Of Legal Marijuana

This fall Washington voters will consider an initiative that would allow the growth and sale of marijuana. Friday, the Washington State Office of Financial Management issued its report on how Initiative 502 would affect the finances of state and local governments. KUOW’s Phyllis Fletcher has more.

The gist of the report is “we don’t know.”

The Office of Financial Management uses the phrase “indeterminate, but non-zero” several times in the report. That’s because of what could be called “known unknowns.”

The Office of Financial Management says it doesn’t know how many people in Washington use marijuana. How many people sell it now, or how many people would sign up to sell it legally.

And it doesn’t know how the federal government will respond if voters pass this law in Washington State. The report calls that a “significant uncertainty” that could cost the state money.

The initiative would generate money for the state because the production of marijuana would be licensed and regulated. Every license would have a fee attached to it, and the sale of marijuana would be taxed.

So, let’s do the numbers. Given all those uncertainties, what does the state say about how much money I-502 would generate, or cost?

Over five years, the sale of marijuana could generate anywhere from zero, to $2 billion in revenue. The state would spend up to $1.5 billion of that on outreach, education, and health expenditures that are part of the law.

And the Office of Financial Management estimates $63 million in implementation costs in the first five years.

copyright 2012 KUOW