Legal cannabis has given millions of American adults access to new medicine for countless ailments including but not limited to depression, anxiety, pain, eating disorders and even cancer. Making the plant available recreationally has helped to increase access to the plant for patients and regular users alike.
And on Thursday, a Washington D.C.-based lobbying powerhouse for recreational cannabis found adult-use is also doing its part for state coffers, having raised more than $10 billion in tax revenue since the first dispensaries opened for adult-use sales in 2014.
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More than $3 billion in 2021 alone
Marijuana Policy Project, which has led the adult-use legalization campaigns in 10 of 18 states to successfully legalize the plant, said in a new report that states have raised $3 billion so far for 2021 alone. Most states report totals for one to three months prior to the current day, meaning the 2021 figure could eventually increase up to $4 billion for year-end totals.
“Adult-use states are reaping significant economic benefits,” said Karen O’Keefe, MPP’s director of state policies. “In many instances the new revenue is being distributed to much-needed public services and programs, including reinvesting in communities that were devastated by the war on drugs.”
Breaking it down by state
Eight of the 18 states to legalize retail cannabis did so in 2021, and only one of those eight states actually launched sales last year. So MPP’s data includes only 11 states, offering insight into the enormous potential for future tax collections.
States with retail cannabis sales generally allocate a significant percent of their marijuana tax revenues for social services and programs, including education, public libraries, behavioral health, substance abuse treatment, veterans’ services, job training, conviction expungement, and reinvestment in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the war on cannabis.
Highlights of such policies include an initiative in Alaska that uses cannabis tax money to fund programs helping former prisoners to be reintroduced into society. In Colorado, nearly $500 million in marijuana proceeds have been reinvested in the state’s public school system, while Michigan officials have also pumped millions of the state’s cannabis taxes into education. For every $1 billion in revenue collected from marijuana taxes in Washington state, nearly $600 million is funneled into public health initiatives, including a fund that provides health insurance for low-income families.