California’s potential $16 billion budget shortfall has led state officials to an unusual source for revenue: medical marijuana storefronts, says National Public Radio. In a state where it’s legal to buy prescription pot, those shops generate millions of dollars each year. Buying and selling marijuana is still a federal crime. The owner of a coffee shop and marijuana dispensary in Oakland is proud of the $200,000 a year he pays in sales tax. His store sells marijuana buds in one-eighth ounce bags.
Medical marijuana advocates estimate that the aggregate annual sales tax revenue that’s paid by the 400 dispensaries in California is $100 million. California’s Board of Equalization, which collects sales taxes, wants to protect that revenue stream. Board member Betty Yee says this could be a “make or break” year for medical marijuana dispensaries. The vendors are under pressure from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration either through raids or threats of taking action against their landlords.