Report: Arkansas’ costs to legalize MMJ could outweigh tax revenue

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Arkansas state finance officials said in a report released Thursday that legalizing medical marijuana would cost more to administer and enforce than the tax revenue it would generate, which could bolster opposition to two pro-MMJ measures on the ballot.

The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) contacted tax officials in states that have legalized medical marijuana but not recreational cannabis seeking their 2015 marijuana sales figures, according to the Booneville Democrat.

Six of the 21 states responded, and the DFA compared the sales figures from those states to their respective populations to arrive at the following per capita sales totals: Maine, $17.75; New Jersey, 93 cents; Nevada, $13.12; Rhode Island, $20.83; Illinois, $2.15, and New Mexico, $22.35, according to the newspaper report.

With a sales totals average of $12.85, multiplied by Arkansas’s 2015 population of 2.98 million, the DFA estimated a total of $38.27 million in total sales and a sales tax revenue of $2.49 million.

After factoring in the cost of new employees the DFA and the state Health Department would have to hire, the report estimated the total costs would exceed the tax revenue by between $4 million and $5.74 million.

However, some members of the legislative committee who reviewed the report said they questioned the reliability of the estimates, according to the Booneville Democrat.

Recent poll numbers show that nearly half of all voters in Arkansas support a measure to legalize medical marijuana.