M.D. M.J.

Up In SMOKE

Is Florida putting a match to tax revenue by refusing to legalize smokable MDMJ?

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Floridians fond of the pot have inveighed about the current limitations on what can be bought and sold legally. Cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, oils and other ancillary products are allowed for qualifying patients, but the actual smokable plant is still illegal. A lot of folks just think that’s just splitting hairs and would like to see legal marijuana expanded in the future, which is precisely what opponents of the amendment were worried about. Attorney John Morgan is suing the state for banning smokable marijuana on the grounds that voters intended for it to be legal when they ratified the state constitutional amendment in 2016.

Pro-pot forces across Florida have long noted the salubrious results obtained by states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon, which have seen huge profits since decriminalizing, then legalizing, the stuff over the last few years, with no notable increase in either crime or bad music. These results were widely predicted by liberals and libertarians alike, and advocates can again look westward for further evidence to back their claims. USA Today reported on Sept. 28 that Nevada, which went for medical marijuana in 2014 and legalized recreational use last year, banked a freakish $10.2 million in their very first month of legal pot sales in July, with some $3.68 million coming in from taxes alone.

“The state reeled in $2.71 million from the 10 percent tax tacked on to the sale of all recreational marijuana sales at the register,” wrote reporter Jenny Kane. “Another $974,060 rolled in from the 15 percent wholesale tax, which cultivators pay for both medical and recreational marijuana.” She added that Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval had originally projected about $100 million in sales over the next two fiscal years, but after this summer, the state has now revised their estimates upward by some 20 percent.

“The state Department of Taxation, which runs both the medical and recreational marijuana program, has received 333 applications for recreational marijuana establishment licenses,” Kane continued, “and has issued 250 licenses, including 53 retail stores, 92 cultivation facilities, 65 product manufacturing facilities, 9 testing labs, and 31 distributors. … The application fee for all recreational marijuana licenses is $5,000 and actual license fees range from $10,000 to $30,000.”

These numbers have observers in other states licking their lips, and not just from cottonmouth, from anticipation of potential tax windfalls. “It’s an impressive beginning,” wrote Chris Morris of Fortune Magazine, “but all eyes are on California, which will begin legal recreational marijuana sales in 2018 (no specific date has been announced). Legal pot there is expected to bring in a smoking $5 billion in sales each year.” No similar estimates have yet been made for Florida, but one expects these numbers to start coming together in time for next year’s mid-term elections.
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