Saturday, May 14, 2016
The Tax Foundation describes itself as the "nation’s leading independent tax policy research organization," and it claims that "since 1937, [its] principled research, insightful analysis, and engaged experts have informed smarter tax policy at the federal, state, and local levels." Helpfully, it has recently turned its attention to marijuana reform via these two new publications:
Here are the "Key Findings" from these two reader-friendly reports (which overlap a bit):
- Marijuana tax collections in Colorado and Washington have exceeded initial estimates.
- A mature marijuana industry could generate up to $28 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments, including $7 billion in federal revenue: $5.5 billion from business taxes and $1.5 billion from income and payroll taxes.
- A federal tax of $23 per pound of product, similar to the federal tax on tobacco, could generate $500 million per year. Alternatively, a 10 percent sales surtax could generate $5.3 billion per year, with higher tax rates collecting proportionately more.
- The reduction of societal risk in being engaged in the marijuana trade, as well as the inclusion of taxes, will combine to reduce profits (and tax collections) somewhat from an initial level after national legalization.
- Society pays all the costs regardless of legality but tax revenues help offset those costs.
- Marijuana tax collections in Colorado and Washington have exceeded initial estimates, and a nationwide legalization-and-tax regime could see states raise billions of dollars per year in marijuana tax revenue.
- Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all taken steps to reduce their marijuana tax rates, with Alaska considering it, after initial rates of 30 percent or more did not reduce the black market sufficiently. More recent ballot initiative proposals across the country propose rates between 10 and 25 percent.
- Tax rates on final retail sales have proven the most workable form of taxation. Other forms of taxation that have been proposed, such as taxing marijuana flowers at a certain dollar amount, taxing at the processor or producer level rather than the retail level, or taxing products by their level of THC, have faced practical implementation difficulties.
- Medical marijuana is usually more loosely regulated and less taxed than recreational marijuana. In Washington, moving non-medical sales to the retail market has proven difficult given the enormous differentials in tax rates and regulatory structure, and officials there wish the two systems had been tackled simultaneously.
- While the revenue can be in the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, it takes a lead time to develop. Revenues started out slowly in Colorado and Washington, as consumers became familiar with the new system and after state and local authorities spent time and money setting up new frameworks and regulatory infrastructure.
- Significant attention must be given to health, agricultural, zoning, local enforcement, and criminal penalty issues. These important issues have generally been unaddressed in ballot initiatives and left for resolution in the implementation process.