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Impact of Initiative to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana

Posted by Andy Nicholas at Oct 11, 2012 01:00 PM |
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By Andy Nicholas and Michael Mitchell--Initiative 502, which goes before voters next month, would regulate, tax, and legalize small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use in Washington state. Our analysis shows that I-502 would have a positive impact on the state’s public investments while enhancing justice and equality.

If passed, I-502 would:

  • Generate up to $530 million per in new tax resources for important public investments: Due to uncertainties in how a legal marijuana market would function in Washington, it’s difficult to determine precisely how much revenue would be generated under I-502. However, using a conservative set of assumptions, the Office of Financial Management estimates that sales tax and business and occupation (B&O) tax revenues from marijuana sales, coupled with new marijuana excise taxes and fees levied on marijuana farmers, wholesalers, and retailers, would generate some $530 million per year to support important investments in education, health care, drug treatment, and other public investments.
  • Promote justice and equality: Current enforcement of marijuana laws disproportionately impacts communities of color in Washington state. Although white and black adult Washingtonians are equally likely to use marijuana, blacks are 3.2 times more likely to be arrested for possessing it. Legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use would greatly reduce this glaring disparity in our criminal justice system. The current system can also cause significant long-term damage to an individual’s economic potential. Being convicted of sale or possession of marijuana can deny a person access to assistance programs that encourage economic mobility and security, including student loans and public housing.  They may also lose their job, driver’s license, or even custody of their children. (1)  
  • Reduce public costs: Every year, the state and local governments spend about $23 million dollars on marijuana crimes, according to data from the ACLU of Washington.  Those resources could be more effectively spent on education, health care, and other investments proven to have a much larger bang for the buck.

(Click to enlarge)


Next week the Budget & Policy Center will release a summary of findings on some of this year’s ballot initiatives. Stay tuned to schmudget.

1. Katherine Beckett and Steve Herbert "The Costs and Consequences of Marijuana Possession," 2011.


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