PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As Washington weighs the risks and rewards of cannabis reform following the House vote to federally legalize marijuana Friday, many lawmakers are looking to states like Oregon and Washington to see how they are already cashing in on cannabis tax revenue.
If signed into law, the legislation would expunge former marijuana convictions, reduce current marijuana sentences and remove the drug from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act — making the substance legal to consume for adults 21 and over across the U.S.
Although the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, it is not the only piece of cannabis reform legislation on the table this month. In February of 2022, the House passed the SAFE Banking act as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act, which would grant legal and legitimate cannabis businesses fair banking access.
Additionally, Bloomberg reported that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will help back a new marijuana legalization bill, which he plans to introduce this month.
In a joint letter in February, Schumer, Senator Ron Wyden, and Senator Cory Booker called on their Democratic colleagues for further federal cannabis reform, saying, “As more and more states move to legalize cannabis for both adult and medical use, the federal government has an important role to play.”
“This is an issue of individual freedom and basic fairness that clearly transcends party lines,” the letter stated. “Hundreds of millions of Americans live in states that have legalized cannabis in some form while it remains illegal at the federal level. This discrepancy leads to confusion and uncertainty and raises significant questions around criminal justice reform, economic development and small business growth, and public health and safety, all of which we believe require some type of federal answer.”
As the letter pointed out, 18 states have already legalized the use of recreational marijuana and 37 states have legalized the use of medical cannabis since 2010.
The growing number of states legalizing the substance, combined with the newly proposed pieces of legislation signify a fundamental shift in attitude and an increased acceptance regarding use of the cannabis.
As the cannabis debate in Washington continues to drag out, states which have already legalized the substance have begun to profit off their legal marijuana markets and the lucrative taxes placed on the drug.
Furthermore, lawmakers and proponents of national pot reform have said it pays to legalize marijuana — quite literally. But just how much money does the government stand to gain by greenlighting weed sales?
To better understand this, KOIN 6 News took a look at how local states are currently cashing in on the controversial crop and how much they are making off cannabis taxes.
The list below outlines how much Oregon and Washington made from marijuana sales tax, in addition to how both states spent those tax dollars last year.
Oregon Cannabis Tax
Legalized medical marijuana: November 1998
Legalized recreational marijuana: November 2014
Retail sales began: October 2015
How Oregon taxes marijuana: Oregon has a 17% state retail tax on all recreational marijuana sales and an additional 3% tax for some Oregon locations
Cannabis Tax Revenue Generated in Oregon: According to the state website, Oregon brought in more than $178 million in total tax revenue from marijuana sales during the 2021 fiscal year.
How Oregon uses cannabis tax revenue: Tax revenue derived from Oregon’s marijuana sales fund the state program’s administrative and enforcement costs, in addition to supporting the Drug Treatment and Recovery Service Fund. According to the state, any remaining revenue is divided to support the following programs:
- State School Fund: 40%
- Oregon Health Authority for mental health treatment: 20%
- State Police: 15%
- Cities: 10%
- Counties: 10%
- Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention: 5%
Washington Cannabis Tax
Legalized medical marijuana: November 1998
Legalized recreational marijuana: December 2012
Retail sales began: July 2014
How Washington taxes marijuana: Washington State has an excise tax on cannabis sales of 37% as well as a statewide general sales tax of 6.5%, though some local taxes are also enforced.
Cannabis Tax Revenue Generated in Washington: For the 2021 fiscal year, Washington brought in $559.5 million in cannabis tax revenue, an increase of roughly 20% from the 2020 FY revenue.
How Washington uses cannabis tax revenue: According to the state, the bulk of Washington’s cannabis tax revenue is used to fund the state’s general fund and public health programs. Last year, cannabis revenue in the state helped fund the following:
- Basic Health: $272 million
- General Fund: $191 million
- Washington State Health Care Authority: $54 million
- Local Governments: $15 million
- Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board: $10.4 million
- Department of Health: $9.7 million
- Washington State Patrol: $2.3 million
- Other: $1.8 million