Washington State Hits $1 Billion in Cannabis Sales

After three years of ramping up the recreational marijuana industry, Washington State has officially sold over $1 billion of legal weed — $1,240,899,663 to be exact.

The pot shop with the most sales is surprisingly not located in the booming city of Seattle. The marijuana retail store leading the way with a total of $31 million cannabis sales is Main Street Marijuana, and it sits right on the border of Oregon and Washington in the city of Vancouver, WA.

Recreational cannabis in Washington passed two years before Oregon, so many Oregonians flocked to the legal state to purchase over-the-counter marijuana. However, with the newly established recreational cannabis market in Oregon, the numbers in Vancouver are expected to plateau.

As far at counties goes, cannabis sales in King County, home of Seattle, Bellevue and Federal Way, are towering above the rest of the state. With a total of 79 cannabis retail stores, King County sold almost $27.9 million worth of weed in October of 2016 — those sales added $7.5 million in tax revenue to the county in October alone.

Washington State’s taxes on cannabis (and alcohol for that matter) are the highest in the country — state tax on recreational marijuana is a whopping 37%.

This high tax means the state has been raking in money since the legalization of recreational cannabis. Of that $1.2 billion in total cannabis sales, the state as a whole has generated over $350 million in tax revenue.  

If you’re wondering where the tax money is going, it’s slightly confusing but here is the breakdown:

$1.43 million will be taken off the top every 3 months.

  • $125,000 goes to the Department of Social Health Services to administer a data-collection survey called The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey. The survey is designed to evaluate underage drug use and how/if substance use affects school performance and behavior.
  • $50,000 goes to the same department of Social Health Services to conduct a cost-benefit evaluation of the cannabis industry.
  • $5,000 goes to the University of Washington to educate programs on alcohol and drug abuse. Studies will also be conducted on the general health and safety risks of marijuana use.
  • No more than $1.25 million will go towards the Liquor Control Board for the administration of cannabis regulation.

After the $1.43 million is distributed, the rest of the tax revenue will be dispersed via percentages:

  • 50% will go to Washington State’s basic health plan trust account.
  • 15% will go to the Department of Social and Health Services for youth drug prevention programs.
  • 10% will go to the Department of Health or marijuana education programs.
  • 5% will end up with the Washington State Health Care Authority to provide primary health and dental care.
  • 1% will go to Washington universities, University of Washington and Washington State University, to study the long-term effects of marijuana use.

With all the money being generated from cannabis sales, it’s somewhat disenchanting when you see the breakdown of where the money is going, especially when you consider how high the tax is (37%!). In Colorado, a big chunk of change from cannabis sales goes into the state’s education program, which ranges from fixing school infrastructure to building new education centers. Many citizens in Washington State were under the impression that tax revenue from cannabis sales would be dispersed throughout the education system, but the breakdown portrays an entirely different story. It’s interesting to note that a majority of Washington’s tax revenue goes right back into the Liquor Control Board (WSLCB).

As far as the state’s goal to reduce black market activity, Vicki Christophersen, a marijuana lobbyist and head of the Washington CannaBusiness Association, says these numbers prove the success that a regulated cannabis industry has against the black market. She explains that despite the relatively high taxes, products on legitimate store shelves “are competitive with what we thought the black market was at one point.”

Despite the questionable tax revenue distribution, Washington State is proving to the country that a safe and prosperous cannabis industry is possible. Congratulations for hitting the big $1 billion!

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