State lawmakers divided over how to spend pot revenue; at least $40M since last July

OLYMPIA -- Marijuana users across the state will be happy to hear that the price of pot has dropped by over half since the first recreational stores opened last July.  Pot is now going for $12 per gram, which is down from $30 per gram last summer.

The biggest reason is the simple law of supply and demand.  There were only a handful of state-approved stores ready last July when sales became legal. Now, almost a year later, there are more stores and more supply.

Even though the price has gone down, the tax revenue that the state has been collecting is actually going up, since the lower price has created a lot more interest in the product.  And that has sparked a fight in Olympia about what to do with all this new tax money.

Here’s a look at the pot taxes collected so far from the 37% combined excise taxes:

    The Republican budget for the next biennium puts those funds into education to help fulfill the Supreme Court mandate to help schools.

    But that is generating a lot of controversy with those who sponsored Initiative 502, who argue any new money should be used for drug prevention and health programs as the initiative intended.

    “The people of Washington have spoken on the issue of marijuana policy and it is their government’s responsibility to listen,” said Alison Holcomb, sponsor of Initiative 502.  “They’re asking us to rob Peter to pay Paul.  They are asking us to choose between constitutionally adequate public education for our children and the health of our communities.”

    The competing budget by Democrats largely leaves the pot money alone, and instead calls for raising taxes to fund education.

    How to use the pot bonanza is a big part of the budget impasse down in Olympia.