As we move further into this new era of legalized cannabis in the United States, it's important to pay attention to and take stock of the growing amount of data that is being collected. From new research, to innovation, the increasing number of cannabis-associated careers and more, this wealth of knowledge in currently legal states will certainly go a long way in providing much needed guidance to prospective legal states and beyond.
It's no secret that the legal cannabis market is making tremendous waves based on the sheer amount of money that is being made within the dispensary sector alone. However, in a modern world that is increasingly concerned about social justice, this profit must come with conditions to allocate tax revenue in order to help combat unfair practices and to attempt to right the wrongs of harmful drug laws.
So, how do major legal states measure up when it comes to directing their tax revenue to appropriate social equity programs? Read on as we check in and take a look at the latest numbers/news from established legal states, and what they're doing (or plan to do) with all that cash.
Just a few months after the beginning of the 2021, we now have the data from Arizona's legal cannabis sales, with the taxes topping $2 million. While some industry experts expected a higher revenue margin than was actually recorded, this is still a significant amount of funds that Arizona plans to allocate towards its state, city and education budgets.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the latest numbers coming out of the state of Illinois indicate that it currently receives more tax revenue from cannabis sales than alcohol sales! According to Marijuana Moment: "From January to March, Illinois generated about $86,537,000 in adult-use marijuana tax revenue, compared to $72,281,000 from liquor sales."
Illinois is doing its part in funneling this revenue into grants for disproportionately impacted areas, providing legal services to the disadvantaged, and working to process over 500,000 expungements and pardons for folks with low-level cannabis convictions.
While the implementation of Maine's recreational cannabis program was certainly slow-going, it appears that the numbers are steadily rising; as the state allows for more grower/dispensary licenses, we're hoping that the post-pandemic market will signal a surge in sales and therefore an increase in tax revenue.
Unfortunately, Maine (among several other states) did not include social equity in legalization and expungement programs are still pending. We're hoping that those in the legislature will take action and resolve to pass these guidelines as soon as possible.
At the end of 2020, tax revenue in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was recorded at over $122 million for the year. Since legalization in 2018, cannabis revenue has been steadily increasing, and is also expected to make large gains in the post-pandemic market.
However, it seems that while there is language in the law that directs tax revenue to those communities harmed by drug laws, Massachusetts has not yet fulfilled its promise to do so. Yet, the good news is that there are people on the front lines working hard to help push these vital actions through. As Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commision (CCC) Chairman Steven Hoffman stated:
“These numbers also speak to Commission licensing and enforcement staff working around the clock to make sure these businesses and their products comply with all of our regulations, especially the health and safety provisions,” he said. “Each year, as this marketplace matures, the public will continue to see progress on state mandates and Commission objectives, including our commitment to equity, and the steps we have taken in 2020 are evidence of that.”
We hope that this issue is figured out sooner rather than later, so that disadvantaged communities may have an increased chance to heal the wounds caused by the failure of the War on Drugs.
At the NACB, we're proud to do our part in removing the stigma of cannabis. Stay tuned to our blog page for more cannabis and social equity information, and other pertinent educational content.