Monday, August 13, 2012

Fiscal Impact Statement: I-502 costs, savings, and revenue are "indeterminate"

On Friday, the Washington Office of Financial Management (OFM) released a Fiscal Impact Statement for Initiative 502.

One of the documents included in the background information posted on their website is a letter from United States Attorney General Eric Holder that says:

"Let me state clearly that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19 (the failed 2010 California initiative to legalize marijuana).  If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens . . . the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act ("CSA") in all states . . . Accordingly, we will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture, or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law."

This letter made it impossible for the OFM to predict with confidence how much revenue I-502 would create and how much I-502 would end up costing the state.  All of their estimates are "non-zero but indeterminate" for revenue, costs and/or savings.  Any news article that states that I-502 will bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue and does not report that the revenue could be zero since marijuana would still be illegal under federal law, isn't telling the whole story.  Any news article that does not take into account the unknown costs of I-502, isn't telling the whole story.

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