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New Study Explodes Previous Estimates Of Tax Gains From Marijuana Legalization

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Legalizing marijuana in Arizona would lead to a flood of new tax revenue, eclipsing previous estimates, according to new analysis from the centrist think tank the Grand Canyon Institute.

If Arizona voters decide to legalize recreational marijuana in a possible ballot initiative to be held in 2016, the state would benefit to the tune of $64 million, rising to $72 million by 2019.

Previous estimates released by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol found that legalizing pot would rake in roughly $40 million through 15 percent sales tax.

The proposal for legalizing recreational marijuana in Arizona would see the tax revenue generated allocated to education and health services. Adults aged 21 and over would be allowed to buy one ounce of pot and grow six marijuana plants for their personal use.

The GCI study is the first independent study of its kind to be conducted in the state and found that K-12 education and all-day Kindergarten would each gain $25.5 million in government expenditures as a result, while Department of Health Services would get $13 million if the initiative was passed.

Anti-marijuana campaigners have been skeptical of the revenue potential of legalization. After Colorado legalized weed, revenue intake disappointed coming in $26 million lower than forecast.

While Arizona’s marijuana use is 75 percent that of Colorado, the population is 24 percent larger and there are more out of state tourists. Aside from the financial benefits, “legalization will lower marijuana possession related arrests and consequently reduce court costs,” According to the GCI’s research director Dave Wells.

Responding to the study J.P. Holyoak, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said “you can debate whether marijuana should be made legal for adults, but there’s no arguing the fact that this initiative will generate significant revenue for Arizona schools.

“We have no need to lie or exaggerate because the evidence is on our side. The most effective and abundant weapon in our campaign’s arsenal is the truth,” he added.

The ballot initiative has so far, gathered 65,000 signatures in support. There would be 15 percent excise tax on shops selling marijuana.  If the ballot passes Arizona would join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia who have already legalized recreational weed. (RELATED: Here’s What You Need To Know About Marijuana While Traveling In The US)

The think tank stresses at that it neither “favors nor opposes the effort to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.” A poll conducted in June found 53 percent of Arizonans were in favor of legalizing marijuana, with 39 percent opposed.

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