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Marijuana Taxation in Arizona Could Raise $40 Million Annually for Education

Money from cannabis is becoming a major benefit to this state.

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How would you feel if I told you that for every joint you smoked you would be helping fund a statewide education program? Well, hopefully that feeling won’t be a pipe dream for too long.

According to “very conservative” estimates by The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol led by campaign chairman J.P. Holyoak, Arizona could be raking in well over $40 million in education funding from their proposed 15 percent excise tax on cannabis. That is, if they can collect enough signatures to get on the Nov. 2016 state ballot and get it passed.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol needs 250,000 signatures on their petition. Since May they have started rounding them up and are now totaling 60,000 collected signatures. Collecting the rest of the signatures might not be a big issue. According to a survey of adults, the state of Arizona found that 53 percent supported legalizing marijuana in small amounts for personal use. Support for the recreational use of marijuana is on the upswing, although there are still some detractors.

Robert Graham, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, unsurprisingly thought the initiative was “a pathetic display” and an effort of the campaign “to recruit Arizona’s educators by pledging a share of the future profits from the marijuana industry.” Of course, an excise tax on a hot commodity like cannabis will bolster the economy. The proposed initiative and the subsequent taxes would go into enforcing the industry’s regulation, but also would allot the remainder to school initiatives. 40 percent of the remainder would go to funding a full-day kindergarten. The other 40 percent would fund school construction, maintenance, and operations. The remaining 20 percent would go to the Department of Health Services.

Alexis Tameron, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, has a diametrically opposite view than her Republican colleague, saying that “regulating marijuana like alcohol will eventually dry up the black market, making it harder for kids to obtain it.” The truth is that, the current underground market for marijuana is solely a financial venture, uninterested in regulation and consumer safety. Through this concerted effort, adults over the age of 21 will be able to have up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to 6 plants for personal use. Dispensaries would be subject to a 15% excise tax on their products which a large part would go to funding education programs.

Although the $40 million figure is simply an estimate based on sales in Colorado, adjusted for population, and from consumption rates gathered from federal data on marijuana use, it increases the accountability of the industry, which would look out for both sellers and consumers. With the current 80,000 medicinal users in Arizona, the estimate for total users in the state is estimated to be five or six times higher than that. That would earn a great amount for education and for normalizing marijuana use across the country.