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Alaskans Vote to Legalize, Tax Marijuana

  • Nov 7, 2014 | Gail Cole


The recreational use of marijuana was approved by a majority of voters in Alaska on November 4, with the passage of Ballot Measure 2. For proponents of legalization, this has been a long time in coming. The Alaska Supreme Court granted Alaskans the right to possess small amounts of marijuana in home in 1975. Then in 1998, medical marijuana was legalized—although it has been impossible to legally obtain medical marijuana in a state with no dispensaries. Efforts to legalize pot by popular vote have been ongoing since 2000.

Those efforts have been rewarded with the passage of An Act to Tax and Regulate the Production, Sale, and Use of Marijuana. As indicated by the name, the taxation of marijuana figures prominently in the bill.

One arm of the campaign for legalization focused on the potential tax revenue that marijuana can generate. Another focused on the state’s failed efforts to prohibit marijuana. In addition to being a windfall, it is hoped that legalization will “begin to eliminate the black market and prevent people from being arrested for possessing or using a substance many argue is objectively safer than alcohol.”

The measure:

  • Tasks the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) with the implementation of legalization. ABC has nine months to craft marijuana regulations.
  • Permits the legislature to establish a Marijuana Control Board.
  • Grants the Department of Revenue to the power to “exempt certain parts of the marijuana plant from the tax,” and “establish a lower tax rate for certain parts of the plant.”

Weed = good jobs

In a prepared statement, Taylor Bickford of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, spoke of setting an example for other states: “[I]t’s time to establish a robust regulatory system that sets an example for other states. A regulated marijuana market will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and create good jobs for Alaskans.”

The November 2014 election legalized marijuana in Oregon and Alaska, making them the third and fourth states to do so after Colorado and Washington State. In all four states, tax revenue has been an integral part of the discussion. Not so in Washington D.C., where voters also cast ballots in favor of legalization this fall. Should federal lawmakers sanction the proposed law, as required for enactment, sales of marijuana will not be permitted.


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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.