Let’s take just a minute and see how things are going in the re-legalized state of Washington. It, along with Colorado, is leading the way to a better tomorrow.
A year since legal sales began in the state, the maximum windfall, touted by Initiative 502 campaigners, hasn’t yet materialized — and neither have the horrors predicted by legalization opponents. Year One of legal pot business started more frustrating than giddy. Stores were slow to open and supply was scarce. But, the inaugural year ended with prices dropping and sales climbing in June to a daily average of $1.5 million.
The bigger story is that Washington’s system, with its underage-buyer stings and evolving regulations, passed muster with the Obama administration. The feds have let Washington and Colorado carry on their experiments, charting a course for Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., where voters legalized weed last year. Five more states, including California, are likely to vote on legal pot next year.
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First-year sales — through June — totaled $260 million, and dedicated pot-tax revenues hit $65 million — about one-quarter of the maximum haul predicted by state analysts.
The state forecast was full of caveats. Federal prohibition and the unreliability of data made their task “extremely difficult,” wrote analysts at the state Office of Financial Management (OFM). Their “fiscal impact statement” also made questionable assumptions. Analysts assumed all marijuana sales in the state would be made through the legal recreational system, despite the illicit and medical markets. They also assumed that every time someone in the state used pot they would consume two grams (enough for three big joints).
“I wouldn’t put any validity to those numbers at all,” said Randy Simmons, state marijuana project director. Those figures, though, were in the state Voters’ Guide.
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With retail prices now averaging about $12 per gram, once-skeptical shoppers seem to be flocking to stores now offering more variety, Simmons said. June 2015 saw the first $2 million day in state pot sales. Daily sales topped $2 million twice more in the month.
Competition from a rash of new medical marijuana storefronts has been another problem, Simmons said. There was just one dispensary within walking distance of his Olympia office last year. There are four now. Some owners opened dispensaries, he believes, in the hope that when the state combines the medical and recreational systems, starting later this year, dispensary owners will get retail store licenses.
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Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, an I-502 sponsor, remains bullish. Washington’s recreational system collected $21 million more in pot taxes than Colorado did in its first year, he pointed out. And that’s with Washington’s recreational system capturing just 9 to 10 percent of the overall pot market, in Simmons’ estimation.
“When we get to full capacity and displace the illegal market, imagine what revenues will be if we’re hitting $11 million in June,” Holmes said.
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[image: Google images “cannabis in Washington”]
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