Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the U.S., have brought in about $200 million in tax revenue, collectively. And the revenue is already benefiting the states and their residents.
“Our philosophy has been that marijuana pays its own way,” said J. Skyler McKinley, deputy director of the Office of Marijuana Coordination in Colorado. “Every dime we bring in from legalization is dedicated to the cost of legalization. That’s regulatory framework first, then public education campaigns about safe and responsible use and then prevention and treatment programs.”
After a year and a half of legalized recreational marijuana sales, Colorado has collected over $117 million in excise taxes from both the recreational and medical marijuana industries, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Washington state’s recreational marijuana retail shops began selling marijuana in July of 2014, and they are keeping pace with Colorado. Nearly $83 million in excise taxes have already been collected within the first year, according to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Both states devote the tax revenue to public schools, drug prevention education, marijuana research, and other programs.
“The big lesson we tell other states is you probably shouldn’t legalize marijuana if you want to make money – that’s not why you do it,” noted McKinley. “You do it because you think that a regulated marketplace might be safer than an unregulated marketplace or you believe that the war on drugs didn’t work.” McKinley added: “It turns out government can be pretty good at this.”
Along with Colorado and Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., have also legalized recreational marijuana use (although D.C. continues to ban sales). A handful of other states – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Ohio, to name a few – are expected to vote for marijuana legalization in 2016, except Ohio, which will vote in Nov. 2015.