Pot Tax Revenue Estimates: Low Or High?

By Austin Jenkins

Washington is about to get a new stream of revenue into its coffers – from marijuana taxes. But how much money can the state realistically expect to take in from legal, recreational pot sales? Revenue forecasters recently unveiled their first estimate. But a national tax expert cautious the numbers may be a bit hazy.

Fifty-one-point-two million dollars. That’s how much marijuana tax revenue Washington expects to inhale in the next two year budget cycle. That’s a pretty precise number. But Pat Oglesby isn’t holding his breath. He’s a former top U.S. Senate staffer who now runs the Center for New Revenue, a North Carolina think tank that has a particular focus on marijuana taxes.

Pat Oglesby: “You’ve got so many uncertainties. You’ve got what’s going to happen with the medical market? What about bootleggers?”

Oglesby is no naysayer. But he cautions budget writers to hold off running to the bank until some real dollars emerge from those clouds of pot smoke.

Pat Oglesby: “They’re just so many imponderables we’re really just at the beginning of figuring this out.”

Washington’s voter-approved marijuana law directs 40-percent of the tax receipts to state and local governments for unrestricted uses. The rest is earmarked for public healthcare and substance-abuse prevention. Oglesby thinks Washington might actually be underestimating pot revenue while Colorado – the other state to legalize pot - might be, well, a bit high.

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