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Two New Studies That Help Estimate Tax Revenue and Getting It Right with DUID

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel May 23, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xTwo new studies helpful to those who are advocating for marijuana legalization came out over the past few weeks. One quantifies the enormous potential tax revenue generated from a legal marijuana system, which should encourage additional states to reconsider their marijuana policies; the second confirms that per se DUID laws are scientifically baseless, and concludes that no one should face conviction of a DUID charge without a showing of impairment.

    Tax Revenue Left on the Table

    The Tax Foundation, a Washington, DC-based think-tank, released a series of reports (on 4/20, no less) quantifying the potential state and federal tax revenue from a nationally legal marijuana market. Their conclusion: $28 billion annually!

    That’s right. The states and the federal government are losing that much tax revenue annually as a result of their reticence to embrace a legal marijuana market. The states would raise an estimated $20.5 billion through the collection of excise, sales, income and payroll taxes. The federal government is losing another $7.5 billion from income, payroll, and excise taxes.

    Tax experts reached figures from an estimate that a nationally legal marijuana market would generate $45 billion in annual sales. This is obviously relevant information for any elected officials who might be considering supporting marijuana legalization. We know from the experience with legal gambling in the US that initially only one state (Nevada) was willing to raise tax revenue by legalizing and regulating gambling, and then a second (New Jersey) elected to jump on board the gaming bandwagon. The other states knew this could be a helpful source of tax revenue, but so long as the issue was considered too controversial (or in some states, considered immoral conduct), they were unwilling to take advantage of the potential revenue stream.

    But today, some form of gambling is available in almost every state. The aura of impropriety has gradually given way to the reality that people gamble regardless of whether it is legal and regulated or remains illegal. The primary difference is that with illegal gambling the government realizes no tax revenue.

    That scenario is one that is almost certain to be repeated in state after state over the coming years, as marijuana smoking is increasingly seen as no big deal, and the enormous tax revenues are more and more crucial for states struggling to balance their budgets without cutting essential services. With every new state that adopts full legalization, there are a larger number of neighboring states that will be forced to reconsider their marijuana policies with a view towards keeping that tax revenue in their own states.

    Fair DUID Policies

    The second piece of good news came from the respected American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety, a somewhat unexpected source. Following a thorough review of the scientific evidence, AAA concluded that motorists are being convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana based on arbitrary state standards – called “per se” laws — that have no connection to whether the driver was actually impaired.

    Under these laws, if the driver is found to have a certain level of THC in their system, they are convicted of a DUID offense, without any showing of impairment.

    Five states (Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington) presently impose per se limits for the detection of specific amounts of THC in blood, while eleven states (Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin) impose zero tolerant per se standards — meaning any THC in the system is sufficient for a conviction. In Colorado the presence of more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in the blood gives rise to a permissible inference that the driver was impaired.

    The problem with these laws is that residual levels of THC may be present in the blood for extended periods of time (days or even weeks) after the last use of marijuana, although the impairment from smoking generally lasts no more than 90-minutes.

    The AAA finding is similar to that of the US National Highway Safety Administration that has previously found “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

    This study confirms the position that NORML has taken for years, arguing for impairment testing, rather than per se THC standards. As NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano has written, “[R]ecently adopted statewide per se limits and zero tolerant per se thresholds in the United States criminally prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle by persons with the trace presence of cannabinoids or cannabinoid metabolites in their blood or urine are not based upon scientific evidence or consensus … [T]he enforcement of these strict liability standards risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations, including those persons who are consuming cannabis legally in accordance with other state statutes.”

    Information is Power

    Information is power, and both of these new reports provide us with tools to better shape the debate over the advantages of marijuana legalization, and to assure that new legalization laws do not unfairly treat responsible marijuana smokers as dangerous drivers. Now if we can get our elected officials to focus on the facts, we can continue to refine the image of fair marijuana legalization.

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    This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

    15 Responses to “Two New Studies That Help Estimate Tax Revenue and Getting It Right with DUID”

    1. TheOracle says:

      I thought the University of Washington or some research university in the Northwest had developed a working prototype of a roadside test for cannabis that would show if someone were under the influence of cannabis. It seems to me that because of differences in body weight and tolerance that there would need to be a second prong, a second test to show impairment. So if the first test indicates a driver is under the influence, then because these tests are inaccurate for gauging impairment, there would need to be a second definitive test for impairment after blowing into the THC-Breathalyzer or whatever.

      Legalize Now!

      $Kaching$!

      • Julian says:

        Oh yeah, the “canary” app? I deleted that right after I passed it on some Trainwreck and half a caguama.
        (Trainwreck; translated to the non- connoisseur; ” a mind-bending hybrid with potent sativa effects that hit like a freight train. Mexican and Thai sativas bred with Afghani indicas.”)
        (Caguama; Translated from Mexican Spanish; thats a mind-bending 32oz bottle of Corona Familiar with potent grito effects).
        (I know, and I passed the canary test? I think I got the canary fucked up!)
        Recap;
        1). We cannot determine when or if anyone is impaired by THC says AAA, NHSA, and NORML Executive Director Paul Armentano
        2). Legal marijuana revenue is bankrolling our Congressman’s next margarita
        And
        3). The only time a morning talk show gets to report a “spike” in marijuana related accidents is when someone “spikes” the the coffee with some purple kush or durbin poison and they all start telling the truth. :-)

    2. Todd says:

      The 6th Amendment says: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him” (reveal an error in the AAA findings, or else reference another study, or test impairment on a case by case basis, as is required by this very law). That Amendment also says: “…to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor” (the government cannot ignore AAA findings, also by this very law).

    3. it will be legal eventually says:

      re; Tax Revenue;
      the problem is, they are STILL charging the PROHIBITION PRICES for ‘legal’ weed…
      PLUS TAX !!

      that is why the black market is still open.
      the black market just needs to sell it’s weed, for a little less money, than the ‘legal’ weed, to stay in buisness.

      if legal weed was sold at a FAIR price, it would be about $20 to $40 per pound,
      just like loose tobacco sells for.
      allthough that would generate less tax, it would almost entirely eliminate the black market SELLING, in the legal weed states…

      …it would still be bought cheap, but legally, in the legal states, and transported to the illegal states, for black market sales.

      then, when all states fully legalize, the black market cannot compete, and closes forever.
      just like it did for alcohol.

      re; driving ‘under the influence of marijuana’ has no connection to whether the driver was actually impaired.

      that is because pot is not alcohol,
      and it does not affect your driving the same way.
      just like smoking a ciggarette, does not make you impaired.

      the EVIDENCE; most pot smokers can easily pass the ‘walk a straight line, touch your nose,’ impairment tests, that have been used for years, to detect alcohol impairment.

      pot smokers are less likely to speed, when high.

      and the AGRESSIVE, ‘ROAD RAGE’ type of drivers, actually become calmer, more COURTEOUS drivers, when high.

      studies have proved it.

      also, the impairment from smoking pot,
      is less than the impairment from many prescription pills.

    4. Bob Constantine says:

      When cannabis is “taxed and regulated” it will not have been freed. The government gun will simply be aimed in a different direction.

      Free people should not be required to pay an extortion to the same entity that brought the horrors of prohibition for “permission” to own their body.

      It’s a form of Stockholm syndrome.

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        I tend to agree with you; but if you’re implying that you would subsequently oppose legalization if you were given the opportunity, a “no” vote, I think that would be a mistake.

        I support marijuana legalization, such as it is, because I believe we have a moral imperative to stop the arrests. That’s the main reason. I don’t give a fuck about tax revenue.

        Remember, we’re all free, already. You and I don’t “have” to do a damn thing. But life is a real fucking horror-show, and there are consequences, always, for every decision you make. You can choose to die before cutting a deal with someone else, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

        Other people aren’t all going to see things my way; to think otherwise is delusional. That means there will be trade-offs of all kinds. Some are worth it, some ain’t.

        Maybe you’re suggesting it’s a mistake to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana, as an alternative social policy to prohibition.

        If so, I respectfully disagree with you. But I do admire your principled reasoning.

      • Tsubasa says:

        Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

        I’ve never been “cool” so I’ve never had much reliable access. The one short time in my life I did, this little herb did wonders for my depression and anxieties. It really turned my life around, and then when I could no longer access it, my life fell back apart. Cannabis and its psychedelic/spiritual experiences complete me in a way big pharma and Puritans will never understand.

        I’m very good with graphs and large tables of numbers–I’m the person they throw data at to analyze when they don’t need an actual statistician–, but I could never quantify on a graph or with numbers everything cannabis helps me with. (To go down the rabbit hole somewhat, I could graph my weight and show that with cannabis I maintain a healthy weight. Well, the Puritans have a way to do that which they know is better for me. I could graph my alcohol consumption, but Puritans also have a way to achieve the same result for that metric they know is better for me. I could undergo regular sleep studies and graph those, but the Puritans have even more ways to achieve those same results they know are better for me! It all ignores that I’m a human being, not a machine that just needs a few routine repairs to correct problems x, y, and z.)

        Call it Stockholm syndrome, but I find it very acceptable to be able to flash my ID and pay a sin tax to have reliable access to this medicine. Earlier today I was thinking how wonderful it would be if the voters in my state were able to get away from their Puritan values just long enough to see that tax revenue from legalization would practically save a large, beleaguered school district that can’t even pay its teachers at the moment. That’s a sin tax I’d be glad to pay. The teachers win, the students win, I win, everybody wins.

    5. Dave Evans says:

      Look folks, we’re are going to have to confront the “crackers” or we are never going to have justice for marijuana users and just poor people in general. They let the police get away with murdering innocent people because crackers enjoy letting the police have this power. They enjoy letting the police arrest and convict innocent marijuana users. “studies have proved it. also, the impairment from smoking pot, is less than the impairment from many prescription pills.”

      And, and studies also show crackers want to see innocent people rotting in jail. This is their goal. There is no “public safety issue”. It is a “Police having too much authority and leeway to abuse the public as they see fit” issue. While else would you have a law to punish people when they aren’t drunk, but “require” police to pretend you are drunk? Requiring the police to lie under oath to juries??? This is evil and it needs to be called out for what it is: Cracker Bullshit!

      • Keith says:

        Racists words are okay to use?

        • Dave Evans says:

          “Crackers” are not white people, just historically most American Crackers have been white. Now-a-days, crackers are the folks making money off of sending innocent people to jail for made up crimes involving plants and them exercising their Constitutional Rights; which via the application of bullshit is totally legal–even though the constitution has a section barring nearly every aspect of The War on Drugs. Crackers used to steal the labor of slaves, now they steal the good from our society along with most of our money. The fact that poorly educated people want to emulate them just shows how successful the Trump model is. If you want to make a lot of money in this country, be prepared to: A) Stay full of shit B) Have your success legislated for you at everyone else’s expense. C) the people working the hardest tend to make the least money. The facts are Crackers are getting away with messing up this country nearly as bad as their were just before the Civil War started up. The fact Legalizing Marijuana has been this difficult is because there is an army of crackers blocking progress every step of the way. They don’t want anything in the country to be fixed. They like the system being broken, they like to see bad laws harming their neighbors, it warms their hearts when innocent people are sent to jail. They don’t care our taxes keep going up to support this insanity; excessive punishment is a good investment to these goons. I don’t know a better word to describe them.

    6. Galileo Galilei says:

      “Now if we can get our elected officials to focus on the facts, we can continue to refine the image of fair marijuana legalization.”

      –amen.

    7. Dave Evans says:

      Bob, in this country, the government and the people are supposed to be one in the same. So your theory about paying taxes being a lack of freedom is missing something. “Free people” are not “free of all obligations”. First off, we need to stop with this non-sense that a government that act like criminals against its own people for using marijuana is exactly what The People were asking for, for the last 70 years. They were quite happy to see innocent marijuana users and seller sent away to the big house on their dime; because this country is obsessed with punishing people, whether they are guilty of a crime or not. This behavior reminds me of the way the Hebrews acted in Leviticus. Follow all these stupid rules (abusing marijuana users is just one of the stupid things we do as a people!), or the system will devolve into chaos! When these rules/laws are providing a system of abuse, ritualistic abuse that is supposed to protect the rest of us from Evil. Sacrifice your rights, sacrifice your kids (in useless wars) and we don’t even want you to vote! These are America Values, and we need to confront them. The issue isn’t being required to pay taxes, it is that we are being required to pay taxes in support of criminal activity on the part of government agents against their own people! The Already Free People are the ones that thought up this kind of corruption. The taxes aren’t the problem, the corruption is.

    8. Don E says:

      Most people who would test positive for marijuana can pass a roadside sobriety test. Legislators seem to think this is a bad thing. They still don’t want to accept that marijuana prohibition was never based in reality. Such acceptance would require introspection and an honest look at one’s acquired assumptions and beliefs, but that is even more scary.

    9. Fireweed says:

      I’m so glad these facts about marijuana-laced driving are finally getting discussed. I can distinctly remember 3 separate occasions when I was driving high and it was ME that averted an accident when someone from oncoming traffic swerved into my lane, and if pot truly impaired driving, then my reflexes would not have been there and it would have resulted in a head-on collision. But I was stoned on all 3 occasions and I was definitely on the ball, unlike the other driver.

      Also, I wonder if AAA or NTSB have crunched the numbers between year by year legalization status and the same years of accident statistics. We’ve been doing an in-vitro experiment for decades now. We have the numbers. There is proof that pot not only doesn’t impair driving but it makes drivers safer-less aggressive, tendency to allow more space between vehicles, tendency to drive a little slower.

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