Since it became legal in Oregon to purchase marijuana at a dispensary in October 2015, this past April’s marijuana sales set a record with a reported $89 million. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission reports that marijuana sales were up 45% when compared to April 2019 sales figures. This record setting number surprised some analysts, who believed that the coronavirus would negatively impact marijuana sales. In fact, now pro-legalization advocates are hoping that the coronavirus will be the catalyst needed for other states to change their laws in an effort to raise tax revenue lost during the pandemic. April’s strong showing is making some believe that marijuana sales may end up being a recession-proof industry that states can rely on for a steady stream of tax revenue. Legal marijuana has provided a consistent source of tax revenue while other sources like personal income or state lottery revenues are less stable due to the fledgling economy and curfews.
Pot Legalization Leads To Jobs, Proponents Say
In addition to tax revenue, proponents argue that legalization leads to job creation. From growers to botanists, the marijuana industry employs hundreds of thousands of people nationwide. But it’s not just jobs within growing and sales of marijuana that legalization creates. Downstream industries like paper products and battery manufacturers may also see job growth due to legalization. These indirect impacts of marijuana legalization come from increased demand on local goods and services. For example, growers rent warehouse space and purchase sophisticated lighting and irrigation equipment. Marijuana retailers similarly rely on other companies, like contractors, lawyers, security, and book-keeping services, to conduct their own businesses.
Oregon Marijuana Sales Top $100M Per Month
In Oregon, monthly marijuana sales have surpassed $100 million. It has been reported that marijuana sales now outpace alcohol in total tax revenue. The state has used that money for things like infrastructure, schools, and addiction treatment and education. While some worry that legalization in Oregon has led to the attraction of a previously untapped market of drug users, The Marijuana Policy Group estimates that the majority of growth in the legal marijuana industry is not coming from new users, but rather from a reduction of the unregulated black market. With only eight remaining states that have not legalized or decriminalized pot, it is clear that there has been a shift in the public’s perception of the drug. With that new acceptance in mind, legalization seems to no longer be a question of if, but when it will happen.
Due to the success of legalization in states like Oregon, national marijuana policy is also showing signs of potential change. Marijuana’s uncertain national status has caused most banks to refuse to let dispensaries and marijuana related businesses open accounts, leaving these law abiding companies at risk due to operating an all cash enterprise. However, Congress is currently considering a change in the federal banking laws with respect to marijuana. Of particular note, the coronavirus relief bill included a provision that would finally give marijuana businesses access to banking. The bill was approved by the House and awaits confirmation from the Senate.