Vermont could follow Colorado in raking in millions of tax dollars from the sale of weed, according to a new study–but only if the drug remains illegal in surrounding states.
To be clear, weed is currently legal in Vermont, but only for medical purposes. A bill to make the drug legal for recreational purposes is expected to come before the state legislature sooner rather than later, however–and, thanks to the results of this study, maybe even sooner than that. The Rand Corporation’s 218-page report, commissioned by the state of Vermont, found that “under a scenario in which Vermont legalized marijuana, taxed aggressively, suppressed its black market, and consumption increased by 25 to 100 percent, tax revenues from sales to Vermont residents could be in the range of $20 million to $75 million annually.” The higher figure includes gains from “marijuana tourism and illicit exports,” calculated based on the revelation (also contained in the Rand report) that 40 times more marijuana consumers live within 200 miles of the state than in it.
The report makes no explicit policy recommendations, preferring simply to “inform the debate.” It does include a caveat, though, that “if the federal government intervened to stop such cross-border traffic or if another state in the Northeast decided to legalize marijuana and set lower tax rates, these potential revenues might not materialize.”
What the report does do is map out 12 different paths the state could take toward legalizing cannabis, each with different levels of government oversight on enforcement and distribution. The Washington Post‘s Niraj Choksi goes into detail on each method’s pros and cons, from the alcohol-style commercial model that Colorado and Washington are pursuing to noncommittal lowered penalty enforcement to 10 alternative methods that have yet to be deployed in any state that’s experimented with such laws to date.
There’s more to a marijuana economy than flipping a switch to get tax revenue: New marijuana businesses have to learn each state’s regulatory ropes. California may have opened more doors to medical marijuana businesses in the late 2000s, but its outdated regulatory laws have pushed many marijuana-related businesses east to Colorado. Since cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, cannabis products can’t be shipped across state lines, and marijuana brands think up elaborate workarounds to legally distribute their product. Oakland-based edibles distributor Auntie Dolores sends make-your-own-cannabis-infused pretzel kits across state lines to local distributors with everything but cannabis.
Despite the revelation that Denver police haven’t had to respond to greater crime–or change their methods at all–in the year since Colorado legalized marijuana, bringing in an estimated $60 million in revenue for the state, there are still hoops to jump through. Most major banks are reluctant to handle money brought in by marijuana businesses, which means most of those businesses can’t use debit or credit cards, according to a CBC News report.
Vermont governor Peter Shumlin expressed some hesitation yesterday when asked about the report, but added “there’s no question if Vermont were to legalize it would help skiing and tourism […] because a lot of young people are obviously going to Colorado now, for skiing and other recreational activities.”
Colorado: You’ve been warned.
[via Oregon Live ]