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Colorado, Washington Set Recreational Pot Taxes

Two Western states, Colorado and Washington, have finalized plans to tax recreational marijuana and are serving as laboratories in the national debate regarding legalization, Stateline.org reports.
In November, 65 percent of participating Colorado voters supported the passage of a two-tiered tax package that was approved by the legislature for recreational marijuana. It includes a 15 percent tax on wholesale marijuana and a 10 percent sales tax on retail marijuana in addition to the state’s existing 2.9 percent sales tax. Revenues generated from the taxes on recreational pot would support education, marijuana regulation, public health and police programs. Colorado law requires proposed taxes to go before voters.
In Washington, recreational marijuana will be subject to a 25 percent tax at three separate points—during transactions between producer and processor, processor and retailer, and retailer and consumer—resulting in a cumulative tax between 35 and 45 percent. The state legislature passed the tax scheme last year with 55 percent support.
Estimates of the potential revenue that will be generated by recreational marijuana taxes vary, but some suggest the states could see as much as $2 billion in the first five years as a result of the new taxable markets.
Opponents of high taxes on recreational pot, however, argue that the tax schemes could create gray markets, as marijuana sellers attempt to cheat the system.
Concerns over the federal response to the new marijuana markets also remain.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated federal prosecutors would not pursue aggressive crackdowns on marijuana sales in the two states, but would focus prosecutions on eight priority issues, including sales to minors and trafficking by gangs. Questions related to whether the Justice Department would allow banks and credit card companies to process transactions for recreational marijuana, however, remain.
Despite the uncertainties, states will continue to watch Colorado and Washington as marijuana markets open, and experts expect other state legislatures to enter into the debate in 2014.
 
CALIFORNIA PORTS
Recognizing growing competition in Canada, Mexico and the Gulf states, California officials are working to improve efficiency and boost capacity of the state’s ports, the Capitol Weekly of Sacramento reported in November. A new law crafted by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthall established an advisory committee to help the state develop a freight plan to increase the competitiveness of the state’s three main ports. California also has invested $250 million in state bond funds to support the $500 million conversion of the former Oakland Army Base into warehouses and pier-side rail spurs to increase the capacity of the Port of Oakland.
 
OVERCROWDED PRISON, JAILS
Hawaii is considering plans to build a new prison on Oahu and jails throughout the state to help alleviate overcrowding. According to the Pacific Business News, the state is looking to replace its largest jail, the Oahu Community Correctional Center, with a new facility, as well as replacing or expanding the Halawa Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison. Together, the new and expanded facilities would hold an additional 4,400 inmates. The state’s Department of Public Safety currently oversees 6,000 inmates, including 1,500 inmates housed in facilities on the mainland.
 
TUITION RATES
Students in Oregon’s public university system will pay lower tuition rates beginning in January 2014. The cuts in tuition rates come after the state legislature approved an additional $25 million in funding to the Oregon University System. Public university students will save $150 on average, the Statesman Journal of Salem, Ore., reported in November.
 
LAND TRUST REVENUES
The Montana Land Board, which manages 5 million acres of public lands, has raised nearly $120 million in the past year for state schools. The board’s annual revenues, raised through land leases, logging and other activities, are up from approximately $80 million in 2004, the Missoulian of Missoula, Mont., reported. Eight percent of state school budgets are supported by the land trust funds.
 
ILLEGAL MIGRANTS
The Border Patrol in New Mexico announced an increase in apprehensions of immigrants illegally crossing the border for the 2013 fiscal year. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the number of illegal immigrants apprehended rose from 5,662 in 2012 to 7,988 in 2013, a 41 percent increase. The U.S. attorney in New Mexico also reported a rise in criminal immigration prosecutions, which had grown by 46 percent in the first 11 months of 2013.

 
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