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Pot Tax Revenue Estimates Likely Hazy

Within the next year, marijuana taxes will start arriving in Washington state coffers. But how much money can the state realistically expect to take in from legal, recreational pot sales? Washington’s revenue forecaster recently unveiled his first estimate, but the numbers may be a bit hazy.

Weather forecasters like historic models. So do revenue forecasters. But since legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana has never been done before there are no historic models. That’s made Washington’s revenue forecaster Steve Lerch, as he put it, “a bit reluctant, a bit uncomfortable to forecast.”

But Lerch recently took the plunge. He now officially forecasts Washington can expect to take in $157 million in the next two-year budget cycle.

Pat Oglesby runs a think tank in North Carolina that focuses on marijuana taxes. He cautions those numbers are bound to change.

“You’ve got so many uncertainties. You’ve got what’s going to happen with the medical market? What about bootleggers?” he said.

Even so, Oglesby thinks Washington is likely underestimating. He says look at Colorado. It’s predicting $134 million in pot taxes in just one year, and he thinks that figure may be a bit high.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.