The feds want to add state-legal weed tax revenue to the country's annual financial forecasts, even though cannabis sales are still completely illegal under federal law.
The US Census Bureau recently announced that it will begin collecting data on cannabis tax revenue reported by states with legal medical or adult-use marijuana markets. This agency already makes quarterly reports on state tax data, which it uses for economic research and financial benchmarks. This data is also used to help calculate the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the total market value of all goods and services the US produces annually.
“Tax collection data are used to measure economic activity for the Nation as a whole, as well as for comparison among the various states,” the Census Bureau said, according to Marijuana Moment. The agency already collects data on states' property, sales, alcohol, and tobacco taxes, and now plans to add legal weed and sports betting sales taxes to that list. The bureau explained that these new categories will “modernize the survey’s content to maintain the relevancy and sustainability of these data.”
To collect the data, the bureau will “email letters to each of the 50 state governments and the District of Columbia quarterly requesting their online data submissions or continued coordinated submission through the state government revenue office.”
The idea that the government will be siphoning up state-level weed data may seem threatening to some, but cannabis advocates think this is actually good news. NORML political director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment that this new data collection program “is a good thing and I am hard-pressed to believe that anyone can oppose this sensible modernization in good faith.”
“Now more than ever, we need our policymakers to rely on facts and evidence, not reefer madness rhetoric,” Strekal added. “If a state or locality wisely chooses to regulate a commercial cannabis marketplace, then it is prudent for data collection efforts to acknowledge it just as it does for other aspects of the legal economy.”
Legal-weed states will have massive weed tax windfalls to report in 2021, especially if this year’s sales can match or beat 2020's record sales. According to the Census Bureau, alcohol and tobacco taxes only account for one percent or less of states' total tax revenue each. Weed taxes will also probably only account for a small percentage of total taxes, but even so, the data will make it clear that legal weed industries make an important, and growing, contribution to the US economy.
“On its face, I think this is a pretty good indicator that federal agencies are beginning to recognize that the cannabis industry isn’t going anywhere, and is in fact a vital—and in most states, essential—part of the U.S. economy,” said Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, to Marijuana Moment. “If I’m being optimistic, it is a sign that the federal government is preparing for eventual interstate commerce, federal regulation, and international market activity.”