By Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a comprehensive thirty five-page report last week examining the federal government establishing a wholesale excise tax on the production and sale of cannabis-related products.
In what is one of the most comprehensive policy and fiscal reviews to date of how cannabis can be taxed and regulated numerous areas of consideration were reviewed including enforcement, discouraging youth use, choosing the base to tax (i.e., weight, potency and price), restrictions, labeling, measurement, special tax rates, home production and medical cannabis. Members of Congress initiate these reports to CRS.
CRS' economic analysis indicates that cannabis prices are likely to fall from today's prohibition-influenced prices of $200-$300 an ounce to as low $5-$18 ounce. Economic modeling based on a $40 billion annual cannabis market in the United States tests a $50 per ounce federal excise tax price point (generating nearly $7 billion in federal excise taxes).
When making the logical comparison of alcohol and cannabis' 'external costs' (i.e., taxation to equate with external costs of the drug use to society), researchers peg alcohol's external costs to the nation at $30 billion annually; cannabis, at $0.5 - $1.6 billion.
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre commenting on the new CRS paper: "This CRS report on the prospects of the federal government taxing and regulating cannabis is another clear indication of the political saliency and fiscal appeal of ending cannabis prohibition at the state, and increasingly at the federal level (replacing the nearly eighty-year old failed federal policy with tax-n-regulate policies that are similar to alcohol and tobacco products).
With fours states and the District of Columbia since 2012 opting for legalizing cannabis, dozens of members of Congress from both major political parties---from states with legalization and those that pine for it---are getting serious about making sure the federal government does not lose out on hundreds of millions annually in tax revenue from the ever-growing cannabis industry in the United States."