Marijuana sales in Washington have nearly overtaken liquor sales. At the year's second quarter, marijuana sales peaked at $212 million compared to $249 million in spirits sales, according to statistics from both state industries. Outlandish taxes haven't stopped marijuana from flying off the shelves in the state of Washington.
Washington residents have never consumed marijuana at the rate they do now. You can thank Washington's steep 37 percent marijuana excise tax at the point of sales for the increase in tax revenue. Washington imposes a higher marijuana tax and liquor tax than any other state in the nation. Liquor purchases in Washington are subject to both a sales tax and liter tax. A 20.5 percent sales tax and $3.77 per liter tax burden liquor consumers.
Vicki Christophersen, a lobbyist for the Washington CannaBusiness Associationsays, the legal industry is pounding the black market that once supplied the state. “We wouldn’t be selling to that level if we weren’t,” Christophersen told The Tacoma News Tribune. The price of products on store shelves now, despite the tax, “are competitive with what we thought the black market was at one point.”
Throughout January, February and March of 2016, Washington residents spent $54.8 million more on spirits than marijuana. Marijuana use is increasing, however, and Washington residents spent $37 million more on spirits than marijuana in April, May and June. Third quarter results aren't yet available and won't be until early next year.
The best part about it, is that those in the liquor market aren't complaining. In theory, the recreational market competes with the illegal marijuana market, not the liquor market. David Ozgo, chief economist for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, isn't worried either. Ozgo said “really it’s been a nonissue.”
Washington's medical dispensaries have closed to make way for its infant recreational industry. Recreational shops now cover casual users as well as serious patients with serious illnesses. The time has never been better for Washington to prove its marijuana industry can deliver its promises.