Daily Caller News Foundation
              In this photo taken Thursday, April 4, 2013, Mike Steenhout, comptroller of Washington  In this photo taken Thursday, April 4, 2013, Mike Steenhout, comptroller of Washington's Liquor Control Board, takes photos as he tours a marijuana growing facility in Seattle. Spreadsheets, statistics and bean-counting are Steenhout's regular realm of expertise. Now, he’s a weed guy. Washington’s vote last fall to legalize marijuana for adults over 21 and set up a system of state-licensed pot growers, processors and retail stores left dozens of Liquor Control Board employees in the position of having to research and help regulate a substance that many knew little to nothing about. While the state has hired a Massachusetts firm to serve as its official marijuana consultant, the Liquor Control Board is also doing its own work--a cannabis crash-course. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)   

Report: Legal pot will contribute ‘little or nothing’ to Colorado’s bottom line

Greg Campbell
Contributor

How much pot will Coloradans consume once it becomes widely and legally available?

About 150,000 pounds a year, according to a new study by the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University. The study warns its estimate is probably conservative.

Put another way, that’s roughly 672 million bong hits per year, which may generate as much as $130 million in tax revenue.

But despite the best efforts of Colorado pot smokers, not even that amount of toking is expected to produce enough revenue to cover the costs of regulating the industry, much less contribute to other areas of the state’s balance sheet.

“Revenue from marijuana taxes will contribute little or nothing to the state’s general fund,” the report concludes.

Lawmakers are currently considering a one-time excise tax of 15 percent applied at the point of sale between the cultivator and retailer and a 15 percent special tax paid at the cash register along with a 2.9 percent state sales tax.

Voters must approve the taxes during the election in November before they can be applied.

The good news for cannabis aficionados is that even after taxes are added, CSU researchers estimate that regulated pot will retail for less than the black market, at around $187 per ounce. According to the crowdsourcing website Price of Weed, the average price of high- and medium-quality marijuana from the Colorado street market is $219 per ounce.

If the CSU forecast is correct in its assumptions about the pot market, the excise tax will earn the state $21.7 million per year, which is earmarked (up to $40 million) for school capital construction; $90.9 million from the special tax to be shared with the localities that haven’t banned retail pot stores from within their borders; and $17.6 million from the existing sales tax that will be used to fund enforcement and regulation.