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Stephen Colbert: Will Pot Tax Solve Our Fiscal Problems?


 Seattle Hempfest. Mr. Colbert does not approve.

Stephen Colbert is outraged by the fact that “cops have stopped cracking down on sparking up” in Washington State and Colorado, where voters in 2012 approved the legalization of recreational marijuana. In a recent segment of Colbert Nation, he spoke of this year’s Seattle Hempfest, where Seattle police officers handed out packets of Doritos containing “the dos and don’ts of getting high in the state.” Don’t tips included not driving high or lighting up in public; do tips included listening to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon at a reasonable volume. Are Seattle police, he wondered, actually “encouraging drug use?”

Dope pushers want tax revenue

Near the end of his segment, Mr. Colbert points out:

“…the dope pushers are now trying to tell us that [pot] is the solution to all of our fiscal problems. Like the Michigan State lawmaker who’s proposing to legalize and tax marijuana to boost funding for road repair, in a plan supporters call Pot for Potholes.”

Maybe that would work, he concedes, but once every pothole is fixed, what next? “What do you think they’ll legalize to fix every crack?”

SPD responds                                             

Someone at the Seattle Police Department has a fine sense of humor. On the eve of the day it was first legal to possess marijuana recreationally in Washington State, SPD posted a photo of Jeff Bridges as The Dude on its website, reminding citizens that “The Dude abides, and says “take it inside!” Now the department has written “An Open Letter to Stephen Colbert and Colbert Nation,” in which they address “some of the more egregious ‘Truthiness’” contained in Colbert’s report.

At Hempfest, for example, SPD was merely trying to prevent “auditory injury [among pot smokers] embarking on Pink Floyd’s seminal 43-minute psychedelic voyage through human existence.”

Pot benefits restaurants, not potholes

In response to Mr. Colbert’s assertion that marijuana is being used to boost taxes and solve state fiscal problems, SPD had this to say:

“…debating whether marijuana decriminalization will provide a much-needed tax revenue boost, we can confirm that Initiative 502 has been a boon for our local restaurant industry. Currently, you have to get on a three-month long waiting list just to order a pizza.”

Joking aside

In fact, the two states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana are quite interested in the revenue implications of legalization. Colorado voters will be asked to approve a high tax rate for recreational pot in the November election. Washington State will collect three new excise taxes on recreational marijuana transactions when stores eventually open for business. Tax revenue has been part of legalization discussions from the start.

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photo credit: Cannabis Culture via photopin cc


Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.