HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s elected fiscal watchdog says legalizing and taxing the sale and adult use of marijuana at 35 percent could add more than a half-billion dollars to state coffers.
Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an analysis Thursday, July 19, 2018, that said there are about 800,000 regular users of the drug in the state of 12.81 million residents.
DePasquale said the retail market could be about $1.7 billion, based on studies in other states that indicate adult users typically spend about $2,100 a year on marijuana.
Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016. Possession or sale of the drug for other purposes remains a crime, although Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and several other Pennsylvania cities have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The report’s introduction summarized key arguments for broader legalization and regulation.
“As Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have demonstrated, decriminalizing marijuana saves millions in court costs alone. But stopping at decriminalization would be a costly mistake for the commonwealth, potentially leaving more than $581 million in annual tax revenue on the table. That revenue could help balance the state budget and provide business and job opportunities — and the way to access it is for Pennsylvania to allow the cultivation, sale and purchase of marijuana. Pennsylvania’s budget challenges are now a consistent factor in all state policy decisions. Taxing marijuana offers a rare glimmer of fiscal hope, providing a way to refocus the state budget process away from filling its own gaps. Instead, legislators could focus on increasing funding for pre-K initiatives, veterans’ mental health access, and uninsured or underinsured at-risk children.”
DePasquale says nearly 21,000 adults were charged in 2017 with low-level marijuana offenses.