Remember the days when you used to call your friend to buy some weed and you handed him a few crumpled bills? In exchange, you likely got a zipped bag full of flower, and even way back when you felt like you were getting a deal. Now that marijuana is legal in Washington State, the price you pay for weed is probably a lot higher than you remember.
However, not all of your money is going toward the cost of the flower itself, nor are you simply lining the pockets of the dispensary owner. Part of the initiative to legalize marijuana in Washington in 2012 included detailed information about how to tax weed purchases and where that money actually goes.
We won’t lie – it’s a high tax rate that residents of The Evergreen State are forced to pay. More than double the rate of any other legal state, purchases in this upper corner of the Pacific NW are slapped with a 37% tax rate, but for good reason. Let’s find out why.
Show Me The Money
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the marijuana industry is absolutely booming. Growing faster than anyone seemed to expect, the revenues from weed in Washington State alone between 2017 and 2019 are projected to top $730 million. Remember, 37% of this comes from taxes, so there’s a lot of cash to work with.
What exactly is all of that money used for? There are obvious industry expenditures, including the cost of running a business, payroll, licensing fees, and more. Depending on how large a shop is and the details of the retail space, it can run well into the six-figure range just to open the doors. These costs are recovered with each purchase customers make, and adding a little profit in there doesn’t hurt either.
But beyond the dispensaries themselves, a huge chunk of the taxes you pay go toward the collective state budget. Shouldn’t a state be able to run itself off much less than $730 million? From infrastructure to healthcare, the two year budget for all areas of the state reaches over $41 billion, so in reality the weed taxes you pay are only a narrow chunk.
Where It Goes
The money that marijuana contributes to the Washington State budget goes toward some pretty amazing resources, many of which you yourself may rely upon. Here’s a breakdown of where your tax money is being spent:
- Research – Over $2 million alone is going toward the University of Washington’s study into the short and long-term effects of marijuana use. Another $40,000 is being utilized by the school to create web-based educational materials to help individuals better understand the potential health risks that come from using weed. Washington State also gets just over $1 million to perform their own independent research.
- Surveys – The State Healthy Youth Survey will use about $1 million of the taxes you pay with each purchase to analyze risk factors and safety concerns of adolescents in Washington. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy also hosts their own study which takes a look into the overall impact of legal marijuana on the health of Washingtonians. This study runs about $400,000.
- Boards – The Liquor and Cannabis Board is responsible for issuing all permits to dispensaries and regulates marijuana within the state limits. Items like advertising guidelines and purchasing stipulations are decided by this group, and they will use close to $17 million over the two-year budget period.
- Medical care – A huge portion of marijuana state taxes benefit a variety of health programs, as was promised on the ballot to legalize the herb in 2012. Between 2017 and 2019, roughly $35.6 million will be spent on community centers that offer medical and dental care to residents. The Department of Social and Health Services relies heavily on marijuana taxes, with $55.5 million spent on programs for substance abuse, adolescent mental health, and services for mothers and pregnant women. Thankful that you have insurance? You should be, as the Basic Health Care Trust Fund Account, which pays for healthcare services and Medicaid costs, receives upwards of $356 million.
- Community involvement – Washington’s Department of Health has instituted a marijuana and public health education program that works to help those with substance abuse and teaches residents how to use marijuana responsibly. Their efforts require funding to the tune of $19.5 million. Primary education isn’t left by the wayside either, as just over $1 million is used by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to create programs that encourage kids to stay in school.
- Miscellaneous – Two additional items claim the last bits of the $730 million allocation, including $30 million to help local government and almost $211 million to help balance the state budget.
Talks Of The Future
When you really break down the costs, it’s actually quite astounding to see where your tax money goes every time you purchase flower, edibles, or a pre-roll. Legislators in Washington have held ongoing discussions to determine the possibility of shifting where the bulk of this money goes, as K-12 education is sorely lacking in funding. While there is the potential for future changes in the 2019 to 2021 state budget, lawmakers also don’t want to change the promises they made to residents when marijuana was initially legalized.
Do you utilize any of the above programs as a resident of Washington? Even if you don’t take advantage of healthcare services and you aren’t a member of the at-risk youth population, you should feel proud that your home state is making huge strides toward helping to educate individuals about responsible marijuana use. The sheer fact that so much of the 37% tax money goes toward helping those in need almost makes you want to buy more weed, right?
Here at The Bakeréé we know that prices can be high, but remember that at an upscale dispensary like ours, you truly get what you pay for. Our products are high-quality, our budtenders are second to none, and of course, we have to include that 37% tax rate.