How Legalizing Could Benefit the Economy
The Presidential election wasn't the only vote in November 2016–several key states also voted on the fate of marijuana laws. Taking a leaf out of Colorado or Washington’s book, four states—California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine—decided to make marijuana consumption for recreational purposes legal. Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voted to allow medical marijuana while Arizona defeated that move. The economic benefits of legalizing weed could mean a big push for state economies and big bucks for both the state and the federal governments.
Impact on Tax Revenue
Better than expected sales of marijuana in Colorado and Washington over the past year have resulted in buoyant tax revenues. In 2015, Colorado collected more than $135 million in taxes and fee on medical and recreational marijuana. Sales in the state totaled over $996 million. Sales in North America grew 30%, to $6.7 billion, in 2016, and is projected to increase to $20.1 billion by 2021, according to Arcview Market Research.
That is the carrot that dangled before many states. California, which is much larger in size and population than Colorado, could exceed $15 billion in sales revenue and $3 billion in tax revenue, according to an April 2016 study by ICF International. A special senate committee in Massachusetts estimated tax revenues from marijuana sales in the range of $50-60 million.
Income and Jobs
Setting up marijuana nurseries and dispensaries would be the first step for the states that voted in favor of medical marijuana. These would not only create jobs but also set the ball rolling for economic activity in the pot industry in these areas.
In case of states like California and Nevada where such infrastructure already exists, the economic impact is more quantifiable as the sector matures.
A RCG Economics and Marijuana Policy Group study on Nevada says that legalizing recreational marijuana in the state could support over 41,000 jobs till 2024 and generate over $1.7 billion in labor income.
The ICF study estimates at least 81,000 additional direct, indirect and induced jobs in California as a result of legalized marijuana sales. It also projects an increase in total labor income by at least $3.5 billion.
Though the industry certainly has good projections, those might soon dampen if Jeff Sessions rescinds the Cole Memo, which guides prosecutors on how to prioritize marijuana laws. Regardless, there is big opportunity.
(This article originally appeared on investopedia.com and was written by Mrinalini Krishna)