Maine was one of 8 states to pass a marijuana law in the 2016 election and it's recreational program is set to begin in 2018 to allow time for proper regulations to be made. As of now adults over the age of 21 will be able to purchase 2.5 ounces of marijuana taxed at 10%, but raising that tax rate has been a hot topic for legilslators recently. Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize cannabis, had famously high taxes on the plant at 29% and 37%, but Maine's lawmakers are currently aiming closer to 20%. The goal is to find the sweet spot for the tax so that people will willingly transition out of black market sales into the newly regulated system. Experts predict Maine could bring in around $29 million a year in marijuana taxes, with the end destination for those taxes still to be determined. Legal states typically use the money for public health and law enforcement, but Maine is still heavily debating the subject.
The committee hasn’t agreed on a tax figure even in a straw vote yet, but Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, the panel’s co-chairman, said there’s a consensus that the initiative’s rate of 10 percent is too low. There are discussions now about placing it at or around 20 percent.
But that rate is based in part on lessons from Washington and Colorado, the first two U.S. states to legalize marijuana. Washington’s rate is 37 percent and Colorado’s was 29 percent until a recent decrease aimed at capturing more of the black and grey markets, according to the Tax Foundation.
Expect this money to be heavily debated later on. Bills were introduced earlier this year to direct revenue toward substance abuse prevention, county government, healthcare research and offsetting income taxes. More lawmakers will want to get their hands on it when it’s rolling in.