Lawmaker voices concern over unintended consequences of legalized marijuana

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Thursday, February 20, 2014 9:37pm
  • News

JUNEAU — House majority members on Thursday were asked about the potential tax revenues for the state should voters approve an initiative this summer legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, acknowledged the potential for revenues. But he said legalizing pot could open the door to unintended consequences.

“I would encourage people to consider the social cost of allowing recreational marijuana use,” said Saddler, the only one of the four members at the news conference to respond to the question.

He said people can vote the way they want but should “think twice, think three times before considering whether letting that happen.”

Colorado’s governor, in a budget proposal Wednesday, estimated sales and excise taxes of nearly $100 million on marijuana next fiscal year, above the estimate of $70 million a year given to voters when they approved the tax. Colorado is one of two states that has legalized recreational use of marijuana. Washington is the other.

The Alaska initiative, scheduled to appear on the August primary ballot, would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and as many as six plants, including three that are flowering. It would not allow public consumption of weed. Anyone smoking in public would face a $100 fine.

The initiative would grant regulatory control to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and give the Legislature the option to create a marijuana control board. It also would establish an excise tax of $50 an ounce or a proportionate part on the sale or transfer of marijuana from a cultivation facility to a retail marijuana store or marijuana product manufacturing facility. The cultivation facility would pay the tax.

Taylor Bickford, a spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska, said the campaign hasn’t released any estimates on the potential amount of revenue the tax could generate but expects to.

“What we do know is that regulating marijuana like alcohol will bolster our economy, create jobs, and generate new revenue for Alaska,” he said by email. “Marijuana sales will be conducted by legitimate taxpaying businesses, instead of criminal enterprises in the underground market.”

Online:

State Division of Elections petition list: http://1.usa.gov/1f0l8d6

Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska: http://regulatemarijuanainalaska.org

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