By the Numbers: Marijuana Tax Revenue

A January poll by the Marquette University Law School found 59 percent of respondents in support of marijuana legalization and 33 percent in opposition, which is a major change from a poll taken only five years before, when 51 percent opposed and 41 percent were in favor.

In last November’s election, voters in 16 Wisconsin counties and two cities voted overwhelmingly in favor of both medical and recreational marijuana in nonbinding referenda. On April 2, 77.47 percent of Sturgeon Bay voters approved medical marijuana, and 50.58 percent voted in favor of recreational marijuana in nonbinding referenda. In the Village of Egg Harbor, 82.27 percent voted for medical marijuana, and 55 percent voted for recreational marijuana.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have passed laws decriminalizing the plant, including our neighbors in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. Gov. Tony Evers has called for medical marijuana legalization and decriminalization of recreational marijuana. Attorney General Josh Kaul has voiced support for legalizing medical marijuana, saying that in an opioid epidemic, he would rather see a doctor prescribe medical marijuana than opioids. He also suggested it could become a good source of revenue for the state.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have voted for adult-use recreational marijuana, but only seven of those currently tax the revenue-producing marijuana outlets. Those that do not have commercial outlets yet are Michigan (medical marijuana was approved in 2008 and recreational marijuana in 2018; commercial sales are expected to begin in 2020); Maine (recreational use was approved in 2016, but the laws and regulations for recreational dispensaries have not yet been established); Vermont (medical marijuana was approved in 2004, small amounts were decriminalized in 2013, recreational use was approved on July 1, 2018, and in February, the creation of a retail marijuana market by April 2021 was approved); and the District of Columbia (where it was legalized in 2014, but the U.S. Congress has oversight of D.C.’s government and bars commercial sale of the plant).

Here are some tax-revenue figures from 2018:

$5.2 million

The tax revenue earned in Massachusetts. Although voters approved legalization in November 2016, recreational-use market sales did not begin until Nov. 20, 2018, so look for that tax-revenue figure to go up astronomically this year. Medical marijuana was approved by 63 percent of voters in 2012.

$11 million

The tax revenue earned in Alaska. In 2014, Alaska became the third state in the nation to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana by adults. The first dispensary did not open until October 2016.

$69.8 million

The tax revenue earned in Nevada, where medical marijuana dispensaries opened in 2015. In November 2016, voters passed recreational marijuana.

$94.4 million

The tax revenue earned in Oregon. Since Jan. 1, 2017, licensed adult-use marijuana dispensaries are the only way to buy recreational marijuana in Oregon. Medical marijuana patients can buy at select recreational dispensaries at a reduced rate.

$266.6 million

The tax revenue earned in Colorado. Recreational marijuana was approved by voters in 2012, but the commercial sale did not begin until 2014.

$300 million

The tax revenue earned in California. Voters approved recreational use in 2016, but commercial sales did not begin until 2018.

$319 million

The tax revenue earned in Washington. Voters passed the recreational marijuana initiative in 2012.