“POT CALCULUS” UNDERWAY AT S.C. STATE HOUSE
S.C. Senator Tom Davis and State Rep. Jenny Horne are rolling out a new medical marijuana bill this session – although it’s not immediately clear what sort of revenue impact their legislation is projecting.
What is clear? People are starting to do the math in an effort to determine how much money would flow to the state in the event medical marijuana becomes legal. Under one concept floated to FITS, South Carolinians who receive a doctor’s permission to use medical marijuana would be required to obtain a one-time license at a cost of $25.
Assuming Palmetto State residents availed themselves of medical-grade pot at the same rate as citizens in other states, such a licensing fee could net the state anywhere between $5-10 million a year.
Obviously that’s chump change in a $25 billion (and growing) budget … but it’s also just the tip of pot leaf, so to speak.
The real money from legalizing medical marijuana would come from taxing its sale – at roughly $20 per ounce, according to one estimate. Again – assuming typical usage levels – state coffers could expect to ring anywhere in the neighborhood of $10-15 million per month (or $120-180 million annually).
Legalization opponents say these figures are grossly inflated. Meanwhile proponents describe the estimates as “conservative.” No surprise there, huh?
We’re not sure whose math is correct, but we would humbly submit that excessive taxation of prescribed medical marijuana (which has driven prices as high as $600 an ounce in some states) could cause a flood of black market purchases – driving down the state’s take.
That’s fine with us … government doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has an addiction to new spending. And a refusal to cut non-core functions.
This notion that we should legalize pot – medical or recreational – because government “needs the money” is ludicrous. It also ignores the real reason pot should be legal recreationally: Individual liberty. And the real reason it should be legal medically: To help people who are suffering.
This website has long advocated for the decriminalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, and we believe commercial activity associated with decriminalized pot (and other drugs) should be regulated and taxed in a manner consistent with the way alcohol is regulated and taxed. Perhaps even less stringently.
“Pot certainly shouldn’t be assigned an ‘extra’ tax simply because elected officials at all levels of government are failing miserably in their efforts to prioritize core functions of government,” we wrote recently.
Let’s hope lawmakers keep that in mind as they tabulate the “take” from medical marijuana …