In the first three weeks of Washington’s legal marijuana sales, the state reportedly earned $614,985 in excise taxes on the $2.4 million worth of marijuana products distributed through the new retail marijuana market. These numbers, released by the Washington State Liquor Control Board on Tuesday, do not incorporate state or local sales taxes, which add an estimated $240,000 to the sum.
Retail marijuana stores opened in Washington on July 8, but product shortages across the state have stunted sales during the industry’s initial weeks. Nonetheless, tax proceeds are expected to surpass $1 million during the market’s opening month.
When comparing these numbers to those reflected by Colorado’s retail market (which opened on January 1 this year and produced $2.4 million in taxes during its first month), it appears that, despite sporting higher prices, a larger population, and arguably higher demand for cannabis, Washington’s recreational marijuana market is starting off much more slowly than Colorado’s.
The major difference between Washington’s and Colorado’s recreational markets is the method that was used to implement them: in Washington, the WSLCB has designed the system, its infrastructure, and all of its regulations from the ground up; in Colorado, the first retail stores were converted from businesses that originated as medical marijuana dispensaries, which allowed for a much easier transition into the age of legalized weed.
The biggest problem in Washington is product availability. “Currently, the system is a disaster,” explains John Davis. “There’s not enough to sell.” Davis is both the executive director of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics and CEO of the Northwest Patient Resource Center, a medical dispensary in Seattle. “People are coming to Seattle because cannabis is legal here… But the supplies aren’t there.”
The WSLCB announced last year that it would be issuing a total of 334 licenses for retail marijuana businesses. Of the more than 2,600 individuals who applied for growing licenses, however, less than 80 applicants have actually been licensed so far. Additionally, only 24 retail stores had been licensed in time for the July 8 grand opening, and many chose to remain closed until they were confident that they could open their doors with enough supply to meet the demand.
Washington’s recreational marijuana market is the result of voters passing the historic Initiative 502 in 2012. The initiative legalized the use and possession of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older, and also tasked the WSLCB with laying out regulations for a state-licensed product distribution system.
Photo Credit: Rachel Sarai
Get daily cannabis business news updates. Subscribe