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State lawmakers debate pot tax revenue: How much marijuana will people buy over next few years?

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OLYMPIA -- Just how much marijuana will Washingtonians smoke in the coming years now that it is legal?

That’s a big question for lawmakers in Olympia, who are trying to predict pot tax revenue as they debate a new budget. It’s a significant part of the impasse that has led lawmakers into two special sessions.

“They’re assuming 6.2 million ounces of marijuana is going to be smoked to fund education,” Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said about the GOP budget.  “We don’t think that’s responsible.”

Pot revenue comes from the 37% tax that is applied to legal marijuana sales, which was a big part why voters approved the initiative in 2012.

Here are the latest numbers from the State’s Economic Forecast Council:

WA Pot Tax Revenues

2013-15:         $53 million

2015-17:       $374 million

2017-19:       $695 million

This add ups to $1.12 billion in new tax money over the next several years.

“We think a more conservative approach would be to be more cautious,” said Carlyle.

Republicans, who rely on the forecast to balance their budget, argue the assumptions were widely agreed to.

“The Democrat staff was involved in coming up with that number,” said Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the GOP’s chief budget writer.  “The Democrats voted unanimously to adopt that number,” he said of the Democrats who sit on the Revenue Forecast Council.

Democrats, who are much more skeptical on pot revenue, are pushing a capital gains tax to make sure there is enough money in the state budget in the years ahead.

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1 Comment

  • Jeffrey

    They shouldn’t be earmarking this money for anything right now, because down the road it will be needed for more social programs and counseling programs for drug addiction.