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How much is your high worth?
To the D.C. government, it’s far more than a family-sized bag of Doritos and a candy bar.
The D.C. Council is in the middle of a marathon hearing this afternoon looking at how the city government would regulate the sale of marijuana, should voters decide to legalize it at the polls Nov. 4. (A new Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll found that 52 percent of likely voters want it to be legalized.) In prepared testimony, Yesim Sayim Taylor, the director of fiscal and legislative analysis in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, estimated that marijuana and marijuana-related sales would create a new market in D.C. worth $130 million a year.
This estimate is grounded in the assumption that 122,000 people purchase about three ounces of pot per year. (The 122,000 comes from an estimated 91,000 D.C. resident users, 28,000 commuters who are users, and 3,000 tourists.) Taylor estimates that the cost of legal marijuana in the District will be $350 per ounce.
Taylor could not actually say how much this would bring to city coffers because it is still unclear how much it will be taxed. The current legislation to regulate marijuana proposes a 15 percent tax, but Taylor could not estimate how much that tax could dissuade people from purchasing marijuana, or how many illegal users would move to the regulated market. Additionally, actually implementing the tax framework could be complicated, requiring the hiring of additional employees.
Initiative 71—-the Nov. 4 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana—-does not legalize the sale of marijuana, just the possession and cultivation of small amounts. According to the City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll, 43 percent of likely voters think it should be legal to sell less than an ounce of marijuana and it should be taxed.
Today’s hearing was a joint one between the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs and the Committee on Finance Revenue. At-Large Councilmember David Grosso crafted the legislation—-the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013—-to regulate marijuana and says the Council will be working on it over the “next couple months.”
Read the testimony below:
Photo by Hupu2 via Wikimedia Commons