Washington's Legal Weed Taxes May Be Meager

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Washington state shouldn't hold its breath for a major pot tax revenues, UCLA professor Mark Kleiman told "Inside Olympia" last week. That's because the state's heaviest weed smokers are already growing and buying inside Washington's medical marijuana regime — where recreational taxes do not apply. "I don't think the legal market they are imagining is going to be able to compete with the medical market if it remains as wide open as it currently is," Kleiman said.

UCLA Prof. Mark Kleiman on Inside Washington
  • UCLA Prof. Mark Kleiman on Inside Washington

The public policy expert dropped some knowledge on pasty-skinned Washingtonians Thursday.

“What if you gave pot legalization and nobody came? It is entirely possible that by the time we finish regulating and taxing this product, it’s going to be uncompetitive with what you can get at the collective gardens,” Kleiman said.

Other interesting truths:

"The top 20 percent of drinkers consume more than 50 percent of the alcohol produced for the U.S. Or to put it a different way, 46 percent of all drinks in the United States are part of drinking binges. So when the alcohol industry tells you they’re a fan of responsible drinking, they must be planning to go out of business, because it isn’t responsible drinkers that build breweries. It’s drunks.”

This presents ethical problems for states salivating over tax revenue:

“The only way to get a lot of revenue is to sell a lot of marijuana. And the only way to sell a lot of marijuana is to sell it to people who smoke a lot of marijuana. And that’s not a good thing. You don’t want the state to set itself up as dependent on dependent cannabis users any more than you want the state to do what it already has done, which is to set itself up as dependent on addicted gamblers. I don’t think anybody in this process wants to see the legal cannabis market go the way of the state lottery, where they’ve got a state agency that’s deliberately fostering disease. Adults want to use a responsible amount of cannabis, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

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