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Published on Friday, February 21, 2014

Keep the pressure on, final push to share marijuana revenue

With just three short weeks left in the 2014 session, we must continue to push hard on the legislature to convince them to share marijuana revenue with cities. Thank you again to everyone who has responded to our request to contact your legislators.

This past week we were very pleased that SSB 5887 was heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. A special thank you to Kirkland Mayor Amy Whalen and Washougal City Manager David Scott for taking time to come to Olympia to testify in support of the bill. Unfortunately, the hearing was crowded and those testifying only had one minute to speak. We need everyone to contact the members of the Committee and ask them to vote in support of the bill.

Your voices have an impact. We need you to keep up the pressure by calling and emailing your Senator and asking them to support SSB 5887.

Key points for you to share when calling or emailing your legislators:

  • Cities need a share of the excise tax revenue to address local impacts. 10 percent is not enough, local governments should receive a larger share of the revenue. We are asking that the state share 50 percent of the excise taxes with cities and counties the same as the historic split for liquor revenue.
  • The legislature must act now. Legal marijuana businesses will be opening this spring. We cannot wait another year for the legislature to share revenue.

Revenue forecast gives first look at potential marijuana revenue projections

Legislators say they are reluctant to share any of the revenue with cities and counties because no one knows how much revenue will be generated and what the impacts will be. However, this week the State Economic and Forecast Council provided the first glimpse of how much revenue the state could see from marijuana sales. The Forecast predicted the State general fund would see about $190 million between fiscal years 2015 through 2019. 45% or about $86 million would come from the excises taxes. This does not take into account the additional excise tax revenue (about 80%) generated that the initiative directed to go into other programs such as the basic health care program. By all accounts, this forecast is conservative. It also doesn’t take into account that the State will start receiving revenue this summer as businesses begin operations.

Source: www.erfc.wa.gov/forecast/documents/rev20140219_color.pdf

Cities adopting local regulations

Another concern we have heard legislators express is about the number of cities banning marijuana businesses. It is important to correct the misperception that the majority of cities are banning marijuana businesses. During the public hearing on SSB 5887, several opponents of the bill incorrectly stated that 85 percent of cities have bans. That is just not true. A number of cities have taken action to adopt community specific regulations and many more have adopted moratoria to give themselves time to review the issue and adopt regulations appropriate to their community. MRSC is maintaining a list of actions taken by cities.

Additionally, this week the Liquor Control Board announced that they would issue state licenses regardless of any local regulations or bans. This is actually consistent with their position from the beginning of their work to develop a state licensing system. The LCB has maintained they only have authority to base issuance of state license on state law and state regulation. They are being very clear that a state licenses doesn’t give a business the right to disregard local regulations, and they are encouraging applicants to contact cities to find out about any local requirements. Cities also have the right to object to any license applications in their jurisdiction that they believe are inconsistent with local or state regulations. You can find more information about the LCB licensing process visit their website.