Pot sales to add millions to state revenue, forecast says

OLYMPIA — The state’s new legal recreational marijuana market is expected to bring nearly $190 million to state coffers over a four-year period starting in mid-2015, according to an economic forecast released Wednesday.

The forecast by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council showed that $51 million in revenue is expected for the 2015-17 biennium from marijuana production and sales. An additional $138.5 million is expected for the next two-year budget that ends mid-2019. A little under half of that revenue is expected from excise tax and license fees related to the marijuana market, and the rest is expected to come from retail sales tax and business taxes.

The passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 allowed the sale of the marijuana to adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which are expected to open by this summer.

Steve Lerch, the council’s executive director, said that because of concerns over local moratoriums and bans on pot sales and general uncertainty about how the system will work, the council has made assumptions that sales won’t start until June of next year.

“Obviously, as we see any actual sales we’ll be able to revise, if necessary, our forecast,” he said. “But these seemed like reasonable estimates.”

Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter, a member of the Revenue Forecast Council and the top budget writer in the House, said the money projected isn’t enough to make spending expectations.

“More money is better,” he said. “But there’s not a whole lot more here.”

Hunter said that he expects the forecasts to move around over the next couple of years as the market takes hold and lawmakers are able to see how much money there actually is.

“We just don’t know,” he said. “The expansion is slow, the stores aren’t open. Something’s going to happen, we don’t know exactly what it is. We’re using the best data we have.”

Colorado is the only other state to legalize recreational pot sales, and its marijuana market is far exceeding tax expectations, according to a budget proposal released Wednesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Retail sales began Jan. 1 in Colorado, and while sales have been strong, exact figures for January sales won’t be made public until early next month.

However, Hickenlooper’s proposal outlined plans to spend about $99 million next fiscal year on substance abuse prevention, youth marijuana use prevention and other priorities. The money would come from a statewide 10 percent sales tax on recreation pot, indicating Colorado’s total sales next fiscal year will be near $1 billion.

The overall updated forecast for Washington state’s current two-year $33 billion budget cycle shows that lawmakers may have $30 million more available to them through 2015, and that they’ll have an additional $82 million than additionally projected for the 2015-2017 biennium, with more than half of that increase due to the recreational marijuana market. The projected overall state budget for 2015-17 is expected to be $35.7 billion and increase to $38.7 billion for the next two-year budget cycle that begins July 1, 2017.

The next revenue forecast is scheduled for June 18.

———

Associated Press

More in Local News

Man shot dead after argument at bar south of Everett

Police say an employee of the bar shot and killed the man, who had opened fire in the parking lot.

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

They check tickets, help riders, sometimes get screamed at

13 sheriff’s deputies (so far) patrol Community Transit’s fleet of nearly 300 buses.

Three teens arrested for Marysville school vandalism

Windows were broken and a trash bin was on fire Sunday night at a Marysville middle school.

Alaska Airlines to announce Paine Field destinations Tuesday

The Snohomish County airport’s passenger terminal is slated to see flights this fall.

Langley mayor threatens newspaper with lawsuit

The mayor threatened to sue the paper over claims he withheld public records disclosure information.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Community Health Center opening its seventh clinic

The nonprofit is dedicated to providing care for low-income and uninsured patients.

More help is coming for homeless addicts

The county plans to repurpose its former work release building in for use as a diversion center.

Most Read