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How Cheap Will Legal Marijuana Be?

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    Posted: Nov 13 2012 at 8:15am

How Cheap Will Legal Marijuana Be in Colorado and Washington?

Not nearly as cheap as it should be!

By Matthew Yglesias

Back in July, I learned the striking fact that if marijuana were fully legal, a decent high could be had for a few cents.

Now that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes—no “medical marijuana” fig leaf here or even Dutch-style toleration—will pot prices crater?

Almost certainly not. For starters, both states are trying to make money off pot. They envision a legal framework broadly modeled on alcohol regulation with licensing schemes for production, retailing, and distribution of marijuana, coupled with laws against underage consumption and driving while intoxicated. The states hope to harvest revenue from taxes and licensing fees. When a commodity is cheap, the main driver of the retail price is often excise taxes. And state governments have good reason to want to tax marijuana consumption. Most credible analysis indicates that pot doesn’t pose health risks as serious as those associated with alcohol or tobacco, but dependency is still a real issue and inhaling smoke is still bad for you, so the standard case for sin taxes to promote good health applies. Manufacturers and distributors of marijuana actually welcome the idea of paying taxes since the alternative is going to jail.

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