Taxing pot

The Daily Beast reports:

In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington passed full-on, no-hemming-or-hawing pot legalization by large majorities. Lawmakers in each state have spent the better part of the past year figuring out how to and regulate their nascent commercial pot industries, which will open for business in 2014 (until then, recreational pot is only supposed to be cultivated for personal use). The spirit behind the legalization efforts in both states was that marijuana should be treated in a “manner similar to alcohol.

Unfortunately, it’s starting to look like both states are going to treat pot in a manner similar to alcohol during Prohibition. Not only are pot taxes likely to be sky high, various sorts of restrictions on pot shops may well make it easier to buy, sell, and use black-market marijuana rather than the legal variety. That’s a bummer all around: States and municipalities will collect less revenue than expected, law-abiding residents will effectively be denied access to pot, and the crime, corruption, and violence that inevitably surrounds black markets will continue apace.

The lesson here is that is you tax something too much, then a black market prospers.

The upshot of such actions is predictable and depressing. Colorado lawmakers are banking on about $70 million a year (PDF) in taxes from pot and their Washington counterparts have projected new revenues of $1.9 billion over the first five years of legalization. There’s just no way that’s going to happen if a legal ounce of pot is double the price or more of back-alley weed. Even the most stoned pothead isn’t that easy to scam.

It will be very interesting to see what the legal and black market prices are, when the legal market starts. Also what market share each gathers. How much more will people pay for it to be a legal purchase?

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