Supply: iStock

The potential tax income from the legalization of cannabis has been on the middle of the argument between republicans and democrats. Proponents of legalization say states who haven’t legalized cannabis ought to take a look at the income generated from alcohol and different sin taxes as a window into what may very well be. 

In accordance with a Could 2019 Gallup ballot, 60% of those that oppose the legalization of cannabis, say making the plant recreationally out there “wouldn’t profit people or society a lot.” 

On this memo, we take these two arguments offered and try to realize a greater understanding and stoke dialogue round how cannabis taxes in recreationally authorized states are presently benefiting society compared to alcohol. 

 Obtain and think about the memo 


Memo Abstract

Alcohol and cannabis taxation are reviewed in 5 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. The memo critiques three features of every state’s taxation scheme.

The next are highlights from the memo, damaged down by state:


  • Each cannabis and alcohol are earmarked for social providers.
  • In 2018, alcohol generated $19.6 million in tax income whereas cannabis generated $5.three million.
  • 50% of alcohol’s tax income vs 75% of cannabis tax income is allotted in the direction of social providers.
chocolate cannabis edibles in a dispensary

Chocolate edibles in a dispensary. Supply: Wikileaf


  • Alcohol and cannabis are each closely taxed by way of gross sales and excise taxes.
  • In 2018, alcohol generated $382 million and cannabis generated $288 million in tax income.
  • All alcohol excise taxes (91% of all 2018 alcohol tax income) go to the Alcohol Beverage Management Fund which can be utilized for common state providers.
  • Hashish gross sales and use taxes are deposited right into a common state fund, whereas 96% of excise taxes on purchasers and cultivators go in the direction of social applications. 
  • Pre-legalization, the state legislature believed cannabis would generate $1 billion in tax income.
    • Hypothesis from advocates factors to excessive tax charges and a fancy regulatory scheme as potential causes for the business’s underperformance and the black market’s continued existence. 


  • 2018 generated $47 million in alcohol tax income and $252 million in cannabis tax income
  • 85% of its alcohol excise tax went to a fund that gives monetary assistant and medical advantages to low earnings seniors.
  • 90% of cannabis tax income is allotted in the direction of a common fund, faculty fund, and a Marijuana Tax Money Fund (MTCF).
    • MTCF is spent on the discretion of the legislature however is usually allotted in the direction of social applications.


  • In 2018, half of the state’s $288 million alcohol tax income goes in the direction of a common fund.
    • $9 million is allotted to the Psychological Well being Alcohol & Drug Providers Account, the remaining is dispersed among the many cities and counties.
  • The state imposes a 17% gross sales tax on cannabis merchandise and generated over $67 million in cannabis tax income in 2018. 
    • After paying for administration and enforcement prices, Oregon deposits 80% of the income into social applications (largely state faculty funding). 
marijuana paradise, a portland oregon dispensary

A Portland, OR dispensary. Supply: iStock


  • Of the $90 million in alcohol tax income generated in 2018, 15% is earmarked for social applications. The remainder goes to common state providers and municipalities. 
  • A 37% excise tax is utilized to cannabis.
    • Washington rejects a price-based excise tax mannequin.
  • The state generated $283.four million in cannabis tax income.
    • Round 24% goes in the direction of well being and social providers  


Hashish and alcohol are taxed in related methods throughout all 5 states. Most often, each are topic to the state gross sales tax. Some states, like California, merely place gross sales tax in a common fund for appropriations topic to the discretion of the legislature. 

Nonetheless there are different states, like Colorado, which earmark gross sales tax for a selected function. In all 5 circumstances, states have created a cannabis-specific excise tax which is earmarked a minimum of partially for essential social providers. In some circumstances, alcohol can be earmarked for social providers.