It’s funny how we have gone from a propaganda based government-funded fear campaign on marijuana to viewing cannabis as a safe, holistic medicine in only a couple of decades. People are using marijuana as a healthy way to relax, a way to enhance exercise, and as a medicine. New businesses continue to emerge finding new and improved ways to deliver cannabis to the growing consumer base. Most of the conversation happening around cannabis today is about its healing power, which is fantastic.
However, there is another story in the legalization and acceptance of cannabis that is getting very little attention.
Profits from cannabis sales aren't just going back into the pot business and its moguls, its quietly supporting this country.
States are writing public health funding into cannabis tax laws that include money for veterans' health care, education, public housing, and medical research. The injection of funds through taxes allows struggling communities to get necessities long overdue.
Why is this important? Because cannabis legalization has created a wave of good that continues to spread, and I’m afraid the average consumer isn’t paying attention.
The redistribution of wealth that was previously supporting criminal activity is now being used to fund societal needs. The direction that so much of the revenue from legal marijuana sales takes is inspiring. I want the public to understand these important details. More importantly, we need to ensure that politicians know we want them held accountable for the use of these funds.
Early skeptics of proposed marijuana tax structure wondered if the quoted rates in the tax law would translate into actual money in the hands of claimed recipients. Well unlike many nonprofits and bloated local government spending plans, it has already contributed hundreds of millions to many communities.
Colorado Cannabis Industry Use of Tax Revenue
For the year of 2016, Colorado received $211 million in state taxes. $118 million went to a wide variety of government functions. A few estimates:
Education and Public Health: about $41 million went to education and public health via a school health-professionals grant, the Good to Know campaign, a Healthy Kids Colorado survey, and assorted substance-abuse-prevention efforts.
Fight against substance abuse: The Department of Human Services received $32 million which is used to support fighting substance abuse, mental health, youth marijuana-use prevention, and addiction treatment services.
Another $16.5 million paid for affordable housing, local construction, and a local "government retail marijuana impact grant."
Law enforcement, public safety, and transportation got $2.7 million that was used in part to prevent marijuana-impaired driving.
Local law enforcement collected $5.9 million earmarked to combat illegal markets. And an unspecified amount was intended to fill state budget gaps.
Finally, the first $40 million from an additional excise tax goes into school construction, with any extra cash going to the public school permanent fund.
Rural towns, too poor to upgrade schools loaded with asbestos can now build entirely new schools like Hudson Academy of Arts and Sciences (Ragan). This plant is making communities embracing it better.
It's not only the thousands of jobs the industry itself creates for the economy. Nor is it just one of the most abundant crops in Colorado. Marijuana is one of the largest taxpayers for the government, their contribution growing to $250 million for the 2017.
Missouri's recent vote for medical marijuana was primarily decided by the foreseen good it could do veterans. Voters legalized medical marijuana with a 4% tax attached to go directly into the Missouri Veterans’ Health and Care Fund, which will pay for veterans’ homes, the state’s service officer’s program, and a range of veterans’ services, including health care, mental health, housing assistance, drug rehabilitation, job training, and tuition assistance. The state estimates it will make $24 million from this tax alone.
Washington legalized recreational cannabis five years ago. 2018 saw $262 million paying for the state's share of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to nearly 1.8 million low-income Washington residents. Their government forecasts marijuana taxes to increase by almost $100 million annually, with all of that money directed at the public good.
Oregon collected a total of $108.6 million in state and local taxes in their first year of cannabis taxation. The state ironically put $9.5 million towards regulating the local liquor industry and towards the Department of Revenue employees salaries. The remaining $85 million went straight to benefitting the public once again. Schools received $34 million. Mental health, alcoholism and drug services got $17 million. Oregon State Police took in $12.75 million, and the Oregon Health Authority received $4.25 million.
California progressively chose to allocate $50 million to support "job placement, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, system navigation services, legal services to address barriers to reentry, and linkages to medical care to those who were imprisoned and punished due to past state and federal marijuana policies.” Californians also plan to allocate more than $100 million to youth programs.
By the way, it’s not all good news. The $27.3 million of revenue from Nevada’s wholesale taxes along with application and licensing fees goes primarily to education, via the State Distributive School Account. However, with Adult-use marijuana sales generating $42.5 million in tax revenue this year, more could be redistributed rather than letting it sit in the State’s Rainy Day Fund.
The US now has several states that can be used as models for productive marijuana taxation. Cannabis legalization has created a wave of good that continues to spread. The positive direction that so much of the money in marijuana takes is inspiring for other industries and hopefully serves as a model for our federal government to better handle dealing with drugs, creating positive change instead of solely destroying lives and draining funds
Biery, Maria. “Missouri Tax on Medical Marijuana Will Fund Veterans' Healthcare.” Washington Examiner, 7 Nov. 2018, www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/missouri-tax-on-medical-marijuana-will-fund-veterans-healthcare.
Crombie, Noelle. “Oregon Pays out $85 Million in Pot Taxes to School Fund, Cops, Other Services.” OregonLive.com, OregonLive.com, 11 Oct. 2017, www.oregonlive.com/marijuana/index.ssf/2017/10/oregon_pays_out_85_million_in_1.htm.
“Marijuana Revenue in the State Budget.” Cap Fee Increases Assisted Living Residences | Colorado General Assembly, 17 Nov. 2017, leg.colorado.gov/publications/marijuana-revenue-state-budget.
“Missouri Amendment 2, Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative (2018).” Ballotpedia, ballotpedia.org/Missouri_Amendment_2,_Medical_Marijuana_and_Veteran_Healthcare_Services_Initiative_(2018).
Misulonas, Joseph. “Denver Will Use Marijuana Tax Money to Build Affordable Housing.” Civilized, Civilized, 29 Aug. 2018, www.civilized.life/articles/denver-marijuana-tax-money-affordable-housing/.
Ragan, Kelly. “Sacrificing Our Schools: Marijuana Money Isn't the Pot of Gold Voters Hoped For.” Coloradoan, FTC, 9 Nov. 2018, www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2018/04/12/sacrificing-our-schools-marijuana-money-isnt-pot-gold-voters-hoped/493649002/.
Roberts, Michael. “Here's Where Your Colorado Marijuana Tax Dollars Go.” Westword, 4, 18 Sept. 2018, www.westword.com/news/heres-where-your-colorado-marijuana-tax-dollars-go-10214271.
Timmins, Beth. “People Who Smoke Weed Are Richer, More Successful and Happier, Study Finds.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 27 July 2017, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/cannabis-users-success-satisfied-marijuana-weed-study-well-adjusted-rich-a7792991.html.
Walczak, Jared. “Missouri Voters Face Complicated Choices on Medical Marijuana Taxes.” Tax Foundation, Tax Foundation, 10 Sept. 2018, taxfoundation.org/missouri-voters-face-complicated-choices-medical-marijuana-taxes/.
Wallace, Alicia. “Cannabis Industry Not King in Colorado Economy: Federal Reserve.” The Cannabist, The Cannabist, 20 Apr. 2018, www.thecannabist.co/2018/04/19/colorado-cannabis-industry-federal-reserve-economists/103835/.
“Where Does Washington's Marijuana Tax Money Go?” KING, KING, 8 Aug. 2018, www.king5.com/article/news/local/where-does-washingtons-marijuana-tax-money-go/281-581833195.