Washington state receiving more marijuana tax revenue than originally predicted

Government And Institutions Associated Press

Washington's legal recreational marijuana market is bringing in more tax revenue to the state than originally predicted, state officials said Wednesday.

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The most recent revenue forecast released by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council shows that the industry is expected to bring in more than $694 million in state revenue through the middle of 2019. A previous forecast in September had that projection at about $636 million.

The latest report shows that nearly $43 million from a variety of marijuana-related taxes — including excise, sales, and business taxes — is expected to be collected through the middle of next year.

About $237 million is expected for the next two-year budget that ends mid-2017, and $415 million more is expected for the 2017-19 budget biennium.

The passage of Initiative 502 in 2012 allowed the sale of marijuana to adults for recreational use at licensed stores, which started opening this summer. Under the initiative, some of the tax money from the new system can be dedicated to the state general fund, while other portions are supposed to be devoted to health care, education and substance-abuse prevention.

So far, the state has issued 86 retail marijuana licenses, and 70 stores have opened. As of this week, revenue from total sales of recreational marijuana — including between producers, processers and product sold by retailers — totaled more than $40 million, with the state receiving more than $10 million in excise taxes, according to the state Liquor Control Board.

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Steve Lerch, the revenue council's executive director, noted that because the industry is still new and developing, the numbers will continue to change.

"We continue to see growth in the number of producers, of processers and of retailers," Lerch said. With increasingly more access to retail marijuana, "we would expect to see some growth in those revenues," he said.