Predicting pot revenue a difficult business

Staff writerFebruary 25, 2014 

A marijuana plant is ready for harvesting at a Seattle grow operation. AP PHOTO

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The state's latest revenue forecast includes money from legal marijuana for the first time. About $51 million is projected to boost the state's bottom line in the 2015-17 biennium from pot sales and increased economic activity generated by Washington's burgeoning marijuana industry. The state is expecting to net another $138.9 million from marijuana in the 2017-2019 budget cycle.

However, Washington's estimates of pot revenue may be low, writes Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network. Until this month, the state's revenue forecaster has hesitated to predict how much money marijuana will add to the state coffers, mostly because he didn't have any historical model to base the projections on, Jenkins writes.

For comparison, Colorado is predicting $134 million in pot taxes in a single year, much more than Washington is banking on.

The projected revenue numbers are "bound to change," however, says Pat Oglesby, a think tank manager who is well-versed in marijuana taxes. Jenkins reports that Oglesby predicts that uncertainties in the market -- including the fate of medical marijuana and illegal sales -- will affect the state's bottom line.

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