Thursday, November 8, 2012

In the Wake of Colorado and Washington State Legalization, Time to Think About Pot-enomics

Continuing our look at the opportunities afforded by Tuesday's election.
From the Fiscal Times:

Photo: Reuters/iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

Pot-enomics: The Birth of the Legal Weed Industry
These are high times in America for recreational marijuana users. On Tuesday night, two states – Colorado and Washington – passed historic measures to legalize using and selling small amounts of pot, effectively challenging the federal law that classifies the drug as an illegal narcotic.

In Colorado, adults 21 and older will now be able to legally buy and possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow as many as six plants. In Washington, the measure authorized the state liquor control board to regulate and tax the drug.

“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” said Colorado Governor and Democrat John Hickenlooper, who opposed the measure, in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through.”

A medical marijuana measure, which would legalize the practice for medicinal purposes only, also passed in Massachusetts. Including it, 18 states plus Washington, D.C., now have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana in some form.
While it may take some time for the remainder of the country to follow suit, there has been much debate over the costs and benefits of legalizing the drug. With state coffers running low, some wonder if it makes sense economically to flip arrests, fines and expensive incarceration into jobs, tax revenue and small businesses.
Either way, here’s a look at the numbers:
• 750,000 – The approximate number of people who are arrested every year in the U.S. for marijuana-related offenses. About 40,000 inmates of state and federal prison have a current conviction involving marijuana, most having to do with distribution.

• $14 billion – The estimated size of the marijuana market if it were to be legalized in the U.S., according to the 2010 Cato Institute paper The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition, which could yield some $8.7 billion in tax revenues and enforcement cost savings.

• 1,000 – The approximate number of dispensaries California’s medical marijuana industry has created, generating sales of more than $3 million a year.

• $105 million – The amount that California’s medical marijuana industry generates in taxes each year.

• $40 – The price of an eighth of an ounce of cannabis in Humboldt County, California.

• $10-$20 – The hourly wage someone can make “budtending,” i.e., standing behind the counter at a dispensary to greet and help customers with their purchases. Other jobs available in the industry include receptionists, doctors, delivery drivers, trimmers, growers, chefs, and managers....