Taxes On Pot Could Limit Legal Sales
By Steve Jackson
When legal recreational marijuana sales begin later this year in Washington, it’s likely the majority of sales of pot will still be through the black market.
When Marijuana sales began legally in Colorado last week, the sales were so overwhelming that many shops had customers waiting to stand outside in lines for as long as several hours to make a legal purchase of cannabis. Prices have been steep — in some cases, stores were charging $50 or even $70 for one-eighth of an ounce of pot that cost medical marijuana users just $25 the day before.
Here in Washington state, sales aren’t expected to begin until late spring. But when it goes on sale, many buyers might experience sticker shock at the price. Chris Marr is with the Washington State Liquor Control Board. He says "We have a very strong tax structure, in the state of Colorado I believe it’s 15 percent excise tax, plus sales tax." "Here we’ll have up to 75 percent, rally fifty percent if you remove a tier without getting too technical,” says Marr.
Because of those prices, Marr says officials still expect a large portion of the marijuana smoking public to continue to buy pot from black market sources.
Marr: “As it is, our consultant estimates that initially we will only gain 13 percent of the market, which will go up to 25 percent in our first year.”
Marr says the Washington legislature may have to consider adjusting the tax level for marijuana if they want to limit black market sales. It’s estimated 820,000 Washington state residents consumed marijuana in the last month, with about a third of those being King County residents.