Washington Marijuana Sales Nets $70 Million In New Tax Revenue


Washington State’s marijuana legalization system has had its shares of ups and downs. The Initiative 502 legalization proposal was criticized by many cannabis activists within the Evergreen State and across the country for several reasons and the usual prohibitionists decried that the sky would fall in the Pacific Northwest. Legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana is hard to get right and is a monumental task that is going to have its share of mistakes. Despite any of the complaints that can be legitimately levied against Washington’s legalization system, supporters of legalization have plenty of reasons to deem the Washington experience a success and they were just bolstered by about $70 million more reasons to urge anyone on the fence to support legalization across the country.

As a civil libertarian and political wonk, my first look at any policy is to consider the freedom and quality of life of individuals. Most important to me, were the decrease in arrests and Washington immediately experienced a huge reduction in marijuana arrests as more than 5,000 arrests a year went down to under 150. After considering the expanded freedom, then I want to next consider how that new freedom impacts the entire community, looking at the crime rate and safety on the roads. Following legalization, highway fatalities haven’t increased and neighborhoods aren’t any more dangerous.

Many voters vote to legalize marijuana because they want to generate more revenue for their state. They understand that there are tax-free sales occurring that don’t go towards any state public services. Washington’s legalization system, with high taxation and high prices, seemed to be a prime candidate to have rather underwhelming sales because the prices are so much higher than the underground market. Well, surprising many, Washington’s marijuana sales brought in $70 million in new tax revenue in just the first year. This new revenue is on top of the law enforcement and judicial savings of not investigating, arresting, prosecuting and jailing people for marijuana. Regardless of any issues the Washington legalization experience has had, the overall benefit to the state has been positive and is one that other states should follow in 2016 and beyond.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.