When legal weed first went on sale in Colorado in 2014, things went off without a hitch. Money poured in. Lines were long but orderly. Local and state tax coffers saw a huge infusion of cash.
When the first pot shops opened in Washington State later that year, the experience was much bumpier. Stores quickly ran out of product and prices soared. Many concluded Washington was getting it wrong.
That impression was apparently false. State officials reported in July that they had pulled in more than $70 million in tax revenue since the first marijuana retailers opened on July 1, 2014. That amounts to roughly double the amount initially predicted by analysts.
Over the last 12 months, legal retail pot shops across the state sold more than $257 million in legal cannabis, which generated more than $64 million in revenue via the state’s marijuana excise tax. Local taxes added another $6 million to the government windfall.
Actual revenues far exceeded estimates
Original estimates suggested the state would rake in just $36 million in taxes in the first year. The stunning performance is only good news for stoners and their political advocates.
“These impressive numbers are likely to catch the eyes of policymakers in other states that could use a little help closing their budget gaps,” said Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority. “While this amount of money isn’t nearly enough to run a whole state with, these are real dollars that can now be spent on things like schools, healthcare, and road repair instead of going straight into the pockets of the drug dealers who controlled the marijuana market prior to legalization. And this is only the first year. Expect to see even more revenue generated – and more jobs created – in the next few years.”
Higher marijuana tax income than Colorado
Not only did the first year of legal weed sales go swimmingly, according to the report, but it beat all the records set by Colorado after its first year of retail legalization. Colorado pulled in $44 million between January 2014 and January 2015.
The two states were the first to legalize the cultivation, sale, possession, and use of marijuana for recreation, in the November 2012 election. The drug officially became legal in both places in 2013. Then, on New Year’s Day 2014, the first retail cannabis shops opened across Colorado, followed by the first shops in Washington on July 1, 2014.
In the months since, once-stratospheric pot prices have plummeted to black-market levels, while new harvests have resupplied once-empty shelves. The program is widely popular and appears to be successfully supplanting the market for illegal dealers.
The new report indicates that sales are increasing steadily. The Washington Liquor Control Board, which governs the industry, said the state’s marijuana businesses, both medical and recreational, were selling nearly $1.5 million worth of weed each day as of the start of July. The cannabis is selling from roughly 160 shops across the state.
Over the course of the year those stores have sold more than 22,000 pounds of dried marijuana bud, plus 700,000 edible pot products, including food and beverages. The farmers who fueled those sales grew an estimated 60,000 pounds of weed.