The initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in Washington state could raise up to $1.9 billion in new tax revenue over five years — or zero. The Seattle Times says the wild swing in an analysis by the state Office of Financial Management reflects broad uncertainty about the potential federal intervention in an initiative that would set up the nation’s first regulated market for recreational marijuana use. The sky-high revenue estimate is based on an assumption that 363,000 customers would consume 187,000 pounds of marijuana in new state-license retail shops if Initiative 502 were approved in the Nov. 6 election.
If it passes, the initiative would earmark $227 million a year of new marijuana taxes for the state’s basic health plan and $113 million a year for drug research, prevention, and treatment. Administrative costs, covering such things as training police and licensing, would be more than $16 million a year. The fiscal analysis makes clear the “significant uncertainties related to federal enforcement of federal criminal laws” outlawing marijuana. The analysis says that federal law enforcement could possibly target state-licensed growers and retailers, which “may prevent the development of a functioning marijuana market.” Alison Holcomb, campaign manager for I-502, said the federal government has only sporadically intervened in the medical-marijuana industry, and usually only when operators appear to be abusing state law.