Report: WV Could Make Millions By Legalizing Marijuana
Charleston Gazette-Mail reports:
Amid state budget problems and declining revenues, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy released a report Thursday that said the state could collect millions of dollars and see other benefits by legalizing marijuana.
The Center on Budget and Policy, a nonprofit agency that regularly releases research on progressive causes, found that if marijuana was legalized and taxed in West Virginia at a rate of 25 percent of its wholesale price, the state could collect an estimated $45 million annually upon full implementation of the law. At a 15 percent tax rate, the state would see approximately $26.8 million in additional tax revenue, the center estimated.
They estimated that if 10 percent of marijuana users who live within a 200-mile radius of West Virginia came to the state to purchase marijuana, and the state taxed marijuana at 25 percent, the state could collect an estimated $194 million. At a 15 percent tax rate, the state could see $116.5 million.
“To be clear, this study does not advocate any out-of-state residents breaking the laws of their home state,” the study states.
The center says legalizing marijuana could reduce criminal justice costs, increase tourism, and offer a pain relief treatment less addictive than opioids.
Citing a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, the center also says that West Virginia spent more than $17 million enforcing the state’s marijuana laws in 2010.
After reviewing the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the authors estimated that West Virginians spend $190.5 million on marijuana each year. They estimated that 532,044 ounces is consumed in the state per year, then multiplied that estimate by the average price per ounce in West Virginia, $358, to arrive at $190.5 million.
The authors also listed limitations to the research. They noted that it is difficult to determine the size of an illegal market, that the federal government could someday start intervening in marijuana sales, that some tax evasion would occur, and that revenue would likely decline as other states legalize marijuana.
The center also notes that establishing a new regulatory system will cost money. According to the report, in fiscal year 2015, Colorado spent $8.6 million, or about 9 percent of total marijuana revenue, on enforcement, administration and taxation.
Medical marijuana bills have regularly failed in the West Virginia Legislature. A marijuana decriminalization bill also failed this year.
Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, while 25 states allow for marijuana to be used for medical purposes and 21 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
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