A new report from the RAND Corporation released on Thursday found that if marijuana were legalized in Vermont, as Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin is advocating for, the drug could generate tens of millions in tax revenue.
While not an exhaustive study, the report, commissioned by Shumlin’s administration in May 2014, examined a range of legalization options and a corresponding list of regulations, arguing that it’s a false dichotomy to think of the only alternatives as either full prohibition or full legalization.
“Jurisdictions considering alternatives to prohibition could limit supply to home production, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, socially responsible businesses, a public authority or even a state monopoly,” RAND Corp researcher Beau Kilmer notes. The actual report makes no recommendations as to whether the state should move forward with legalization or not.
Researchers found that a large portion of the projected tax revenue, slated between $25 and $75 million dollars annually, could come from neighboring states, as 40 times more marijuana users live within 200 miles of Vermont’s border than live within the state itself. This could provide between 1.4 to 5.2 percent of the state’s budget.
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Vermont would benefit not only from what some are calling marijuana tourism, but also illegal exports. And the aspect of illegal exports hints at some of the problems that may place revenue projects in jeopardy. The federal government may choose to swoop in and block cross-border traffic. Additionally, if other states in the surrounding area legalize and tax marijuana, revenue again would drop.
“Our conversation about whether to legalize marijuana must be rooted in facts and transparent about the uncertainties,” Shumlin stated. “This RAND report will serve as a critical foundation for our ongoing discussion about the best course for Vermont. I continue to support moves to legalize marijuana in Vermont, but have always said we have to proceed with rigorous research and preparation before deciding whether to act. This report will help us do that.”
A 2014 poll conducted by Castleton Polling Institute and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project in Vermont found that 57 percent of Vermont voters support regulating and taxing marijuana, with only 34 percent opposed.
“Marijuana legalization is now at the forefront of mainstream politics in America,” Tom Angell, Chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Over the next two years, as more states gear up to consider legalization ballot measures, I predict that more governors, and even some U.S. senators, will say that it’s time to end marijuana prohibition. Polls now consistently show that a majority of voters supports legalization, and there’s a growing expectation that elected officials will finally start to address this issue.”
No legalization bill has yet been introduced to the legislature, but it’s expected that one will shortly follow the RAND Corporation’s report.
“More and more savvy politicians will recognize the political opportunity before them to help shape the emerging regulatory landscape in regard to cannabis production and distribution, not deny it,” Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told TheDCNF.
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