It feels like Christmas for the country’s legal marijuana stores today. Not only Christmas but all other holidays rolled in to one one smoky party known as 420.
April 20 has for a long time been a day full of civil disobedience by marijuana users, who assemble in public to light up weed at 4:20 p.m. The phrase “420” is a longtime code for marijuana users, who work it into dating profiles or post it on signs to show their common interest. But while it used to be a celebration held using a particular degree of furtiveness, the swiftly growing legalization of cannabis means an increasing number of Americans no longer face critical, if any, punishment for smoking weed.
All states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana also have prohibited public consumption, but those rules in many cases are dismissed on April 20, when crowds assemble on college campuses and central parks to light up. That means huge sales days for shops, particularly in states with operating marijuana marketplaces: Washington, Oregon and Colorado, which could see single-day 420 sales of $20 million.
One of Colorado’s largest marijuana stores, the Medicine Man, anticipated to see more than double the regular number of customers each day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
State regulators in Ohio recognize that proposed licensing fees for medical marijuana businesses could initially surpass the state’s costs of running the program.
The program is requested approximately $2.5 million a year for operational costs in each of the next two years. That doesn’t comprise several unknown costs, including preparing the program’s licensing, product tracking and payment systems and creating a necessary toll-free hotline.
In the event the state issues all of the licenses it’s making accessible — 24 to cultivators, 40 to product processors and 60 to dispensaries — fees as proposed would create $10.8 million. The state has also made application fees for the licenses non-refundable.
Several advisers pushed back against the notion that fees may be overly high.
Washington state’s poorly designed marijuana laws have resulted in slow retail growth and high prices. One of the biggest failures of current legislation is disallowing existing medical marijuana dispensaries from selling recreational marijuana. For example in Seattle there are almost 200 medical marijuana suppliers but only a half dozen shops that sell recreational marijuana. Another problem is pricing. With a 25% tax added to the cannabis product at every stage (production, processing and retail sales) recreational pot costs twice as much as medical marijuana. This price descrepancy is allowing the perpetuation of the black market and hindering tax revenues for the state. When Oregon pot shops open in 2016 the pot shops on Washington’s border will become obsolete and will likely be forced out of business.
This situation could be remedied if new proposed legislation is passed. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) has proposed a bill that would:
1) Raise the limit on the number of state-licenses (currently 21 for Seattle and 334 statewide) and allow medical dispensaries to apply to sell recreational pot.
2) Reduce marijuana taxes by consolidating the three step tax into a single levy collected at the recreational pot shops.
3) Reduce restrictions on store locations
4) Share tax revenues only with those cities and counties that allow industry to function in their area.