Utah medical marijuana is likely on its way, but before it gets there, taxpaying residents need to swallow the costs of just getting it on the ballot. Utah is sandwiched between two states that have legalized recreational marijuana, Nevada and Colorado, and the legal marijuana business is booming in both of those states. Utah is seeing its residents regularly flock to their neighboring states and spending money that Utah could be taxing instead. Utah is not considering legalizing recreational marijuana right now, but doesn’t it seem logical that Utah would want to start the process to try and collect that tax revenue instead?
SALT LAKE CITY — A ballot initiative for medical marijuana would cost Utah taxpayers about $3 million if it passes, according to a fiscal impact statement made public on Tuesday.
The analysis by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget estimated the law would cost approximately $2.9 million ($1.8 million ongoing and $1.1 million one-time) — at least up front.
“Fee collections would cover about $1,400,000 of ongoing costs. General state revenues would be required for remaining ongoing costs ($400,000) and all onetime costs ($1,100,000). The complete impact of the proposed tax provisions is inestimable due to lack of clarity in proposed language,” GOMB Executive Director Kristen Cox wrote. “Under the proposed sales tax exemption, the state and local governments would forego $1,600,000 in sales tax revenue. Consumer and firm behavior different than assumed would alter these estimates.”
The fiscal impact statement is a requirement to get on the ballot in 2018. Backers of the ballot initiative must also hold seven public hearings across the state before they are allowed to gather signatures.
The Utah Patients Coalition, which is running the ballot initiative, believed that once up-and-running, the program would not impact taxpayers.
“Once the medical cannabis program is operational, the government will be able to offset its expenses through fees, eliminating any burden on taxpayers. This is a program that will be self-sustaining through fees paid for by the patients who participate and the businesses that serve them,” said the coalition’s DJ Schanz.
The Utah Patients Coalition announced it has also scheduled public hearings for this week. They are: