Legal Marijuana and Taxes: Should Schools Reap the Tax Reward in NV?
With legal marijuana production, distribution, and sales comes a host of tax revenue. While most of that will go to pay for the cost of regulating the industry, the hope is that there will be some left over to augment the community.
Governor Brian Sandoval believes that charging a 10 percent excise tax on all retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-related products is a good way to start the process. This is in addition to the 15 percent excise tax placed on the sale of marijuana and related products, and the licensing and fees that would be required of businesses that sell the drug.
The 10 percent excise tax would potentially generate about $69 million, and the governor proposed that most, if not all, of those funds would go to benefit public schools across the state in his State of the State address this month – that is, after the costs of operations for the recreational program are subtracted from the retail sales tax, wholesale sales tax, licensing, and fees.
It will likely take another six months before a full proposal of regulations is drafted and passed to set up the recreational marijuana program. Setting the retail sales tax is one of the first steps in this process.
While many happily support the use of the funds for Nevada public schools, some say that we must first address the problem of addiction in the state. Opiate addiction in particular is a huge problem in Nevada and across the country, and many believe that the first order of business is to help people who are living with addiction to access treatment services before anything else is considered. Funding has always been an issue, both for schools and for addiction treatment, so there is an open debate as to how best the funds should be utilized.
What do you think should be done with the tax revenue generated by recreational marijuana sales tax?
Children Are of Primary Concern
Perhaps it is the fact that the risk to children brought about by increased exposure to marijuana and marijuana-laced baked goods and candies is in such tight focus that the natural assumption was that taxes should go toward local schools. In Colorado, there has been a spike in emergency room admissions for kids who ingest marijuana-laced products that look like regular candy or baked goods and overdose as a result.
This issue has not escaped the notice of Governor Sandoval. He said: “Additionally, I will ask regulators to limit the sale of marijuana products and packaging that appeal to children or may be mistaken for candy. Let’s work together to make sure Nevada’s market for legal marijuana is restricted, responsible and, most importantly, respected.”
No matter which direction the tax revenues from recreational marijuana are funneled, it is clear that regulations must seek to protect children at all costs.
Treatment or Schools?
Governor Sandoval did not completely ignore the needs of families that have been hit by opiate addiction in Nevada. He is proposing a bill that would increase training and education of medical professionals on how to safely use addictive medications for treatment.
Said Governor Sandoval: “While we have made progress, prescription drug abuse is tearing at the fabric of our families and communities.”
Education for medical professionals is key. While it is important to increase prevention efforts and help to stop new cases of addiction before they start, it is also imperative to take strides to help the families that are already living with opiate addiction. There are a number of ways that properly allocated funding could accomplish this in Nevada, including:
- Increased access to naloxone for first responders, other medical professionals, and nonprofit agencies that receive government funding
- Increased access to naloxone – including subsidized naloxone – for families living with opiate addiction
- Prevention efforts and educational awareness in public high schools
- Increased Drug Take-Back Days sponsored by law enforcement and fire departments that empower families to get rid of unwanted or unused addictive medications with no questions asked
- Increased access to treatment services, including outpatient services, inpatient care, family support services, and long-term aftercare