It's a good time to be a marijuana reform advocate in Washington.
Washington state's first year of legalized marijuana has brought in approximately $70 million in new tax revenues, reports the Associated Press.
That $70 million total includes over two-thirds more ($62 million) than the originally expected $36 million in excise taxes, all from approximately $250 million in sales since the first legal dispensaries opened up in July 2014.
The background: Although $70 million might not seem like a huge amount compared to the state's $38 billion biannual budget, the results are still impressive when factoring in how slowly Washington's marijuana market was to develop compared to Colorado's. Washington pot shops were faced with a skeptical state Liquor Control Board that sought to restrict the availability of legal marijuana over concerns of federal intervention and was thus slow to issue licenses. But a year in, it looks like Washington has already caught up with Colorado, which the AP reports brought in $44 million in taxes in their first year.
As reform advocate and former legalization skeptic Bruce Barcott wrote in Time in April, there has been no corresponding crime wave in Washington, and police in the state are now free to put the time they formerly spent arresting over 12,000 people annually for possession to better use. Washington pot shops are tightly regulated, with all products clearly labeled with safety warnings and other helpful information.
In fact, the AP reports the primary complaint from marijuana business owners is that high tax rates have made them unable to draw a profit — far from the predictions of legalization opponents that reform would usher in an epidemic of pot shops hawking addiction.
Why you should care: Slowly but surely, marijuana legalization advocates are winning. The relaxed laws generate new revenue, reduce the amount of wasted time and resources put into enforcing prohibition and have negligible effects on crime and health. Even Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, originally an opponent of reform, has come out for it.
"It hasn't been the economic miracle, the economic sensation that people thought it was going to be," Hickenlooper recently said, according to Vox. "But at the same time, it hasn't been the nightmare that a lot of us skeptics and critics thought it would be."
So far, the news emerging from the growing number of legal-weed states continues to support the argument that reform is working as intended, and states can make money doing it. Meanwhile, public support continues to stay firmly in favor of legalization. It wouldn't be surprising to see this movement spread even further in coming years.
h/t Associated Press