Pubdate: Fri, 21 Feb 2014
Source: Delaware County Daily Times (PA)
Copyright: 2014 The Daily Times


Wow. Did you hear the news out of Colorado?

Last year, voters approved the legal sale of marijuana -- not just 
for medicinal purposes, but for recreational use as well. One of the 
reasons some people voted for it was because proponents promised it 
would bring major new revenues for the state. State officials 
predicted they could collect $70 million in taxes if the proposal was approved.

Now, with recreational weed being sold and taxed at 12.9 percent, the 
first solid revenue projections are coming in. (Medicinal marijuana 
is subject to a reduced tax rate of 2.9 percent.)

According to a budget proposal released Wednesday by Gov. John 
Hickenlooper, Colorado will reap $98 million this year from the 
marijuana tax -- well above expectations. Talk about a "Rocky Mountain high."

The projections are based on the number of retail marijuana stores in 
the state -- 163 as of this week -- and the price of the product. 
Prices have not been standardized, but the recreational marijuana is 
selling for much more than the $202 an ounce proponents predicted last year.

In Washington state, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 
2012, budget forecasters are expecting similar results. Although 
retail sales won't begin for a few months, officials expect to 
collect almost $190 million in new revenues over a four-year period.

Colorado officials recognize that, along with all the new cash, there 
are downsides to legalized weed. That's why they're planning to use 
some of that revenue for drug abuse awareness efforts, with $45.5 
million aimed at youth prevention, $40.4 million for substance abuse 
treatment, and $12.4 million for public health. There will be money 
for more residential treatment center beds, education programs and 
more. But other funds will go for school construction projects and 
other public works.

Other states will be watching the path of legalized marijuana in 
Colorado and Washington. It's clearly something the public wants and 
it will clearly produce big payouts for state treasuries. Will 
Pennsylvania follow their lead?

Don't hold your breath. This is, after all, a state that clings to 
the Prohibition-era regulation of alcohol known as the Pennsylvania 
Liquor Control Board. It subjects a legal product to convoluted 
availability and usurious taxes that would make Carrie Nation proud.

Indeed, a hearing of the state Senate Appropriations Committee in 
Harrisburg this week showed what little hope there is that 
Pennsylvania will take a progressive step out of the 1930s. Meeting 
with LCB officials, state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, dismissed the 
notion that a private liquor system would result in better product 
selection as "baloney" and said, "Let's put this B.S. privatization 
to bed and bury it."

State Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Allegheny, the minority chairman of the 
House Appropriations Committee, told the PA Independent that there's 
little enthusiasm for the cause in the Legislature this year.

"It was tried once and it failed," he said. "I think members want to 
move on. They have other things on their plates."

Gov. Tom Corbett didn't include revenues from privatizing the state 
stores in his budget proposal for the coming year. In the past, he 
estimated that phasing out the 600 statecontrolled liquor stores and 
auctioning off up to 1,200 private liquor sale licences would produce 
a revenue boost of $600 million to $1 billion.

But why would our state take such a step? We clearly don't need the money.

If we need to fix the roads, we'll just slap more taxes on the sale 
of gasoline.

If we need to fund public education, we can just raise local property 
taxes and force old people out on the street.

There are all other kinds of state fees to raise and indignities to 
inflict on Pennsylvanians. Just don't let us buy a six-pack of beer 
and a bottle of wine in one store ... or puff on a joint to relieve 
some stress. Our wise state legislators know what's in our best 
interests. Don't they? Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom