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Cutting through confusion surrounding ballot measure to legalize marijuana

By Charlo Greene 9:21 PM July 29, 2014

Potential revenue

More than $250 million in just one year with $20.4 million of that money in tax revenue, courtesy of cannabis.

That is how much money the Alaska Cannabis Institute expects the marijuana industry to bring Alaska during the first year of recreational sales. The opposition, however, predicts only $5 million in tax revenues.

Alaska Cannabis Institute director Cory Wray says their projection is the result of a calculation factoring in:

  • The number of marijuana users in the state, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (37.8 percent for people 18-25 years old and 13.8 percent for people 26 years old and older)
  • The number of people in the state who would be able to consume cannabis under the new law, provided by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
  • The average amount of marijuana consumed — 4.26 ounces in a year
  • An average retail cost of $15 per gram of marijuana
  • The $50 per ounce tax rate

As a result, ACI says they believe Alaskans will consume 408,417 ounces of marijuana, all of which will be taxed at a rate of $50 per ounce.

Deborah Williams with “Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2″ says their $5 million projection was based on “Colorado’s projected use, on the amount of taxes that this initiative calls for, which are actually less than the Colorado taxes and just simple math.”

Marijuana-related charges

“No one is being prosecuted for simple marijuana possession in Alaska,” Williams said, citing the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police. The group says there are only 13 people in prison for marijuana charges, but each are tied to a much more serious crime.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska says passing Ballot Measure 2 would cut back on state Department of Law and Department of Public Safety costs going toward marijuana eradication.

The Department of Public safety reports 669 marijuana-related charges and arrests in 2013 and 2,697 over the past three years.

The Department of Law says if the initiative passes, it will have no retroactive effect on those already charged or convicted for minor marijuana possession charges.

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