As fiscal 2016 ended June 30, Washington cannabis sales came in at $1.3655 billion, a whopping 67.8% gain over last year’s $786 million in gross sales.
In the three years since the start of recreational marijuana sales, Washington has blazed its own trail to become the world’s biggest market in only three years. The state has dropped its infamous 60%, three-level tax down to a more moderate 37% rate (plus additional local sales tax). The state is closed-to-outside investors, and stores are capped at 556 total. Beginning July 23, a new bill goes into effect finally giving medical cardholders access to clones, seeds and immature plants for home growing for the first time.
A closer look at sales and tax data released by the Washington LMCB this week shows a hefty 68% growth over last fiscal 2015 (July 1-June 30, 2015) when gross MJ sales topped $786.4 million with tax revenues of $185.6 million. In fiscal 2014, total sales were $259.5 million, with excise tax of $64.9mil.
By comparison, total year-end 2016 sales in Colorado reached $1.31 billion with statewide taxes exceeding $199 million. For the current Colorado year, projected full year 2017 sales are expected to surpass $1.52 billion, eclipsing the current Washington sales. However, financial observers caution that 2017-18 may be the high-sales mark for both Washington and Colorado as aggressive RMJ sales commenced this month in Nevada, and will kickoff throughout California in the first quarter of 2018.
Washington and Colorado have the highest cannabis taxes in the world. Excise and sales taxes are projected to be lower in Nevada with a 25% tax (15% excise and 10% educational fund) and a California’s 10% statewide tax. An additional 10-16% tax is expected on RMJ, but little or no tax assessed on local MMJ sales.
The vast number of un-registered “medical” patients (no one is required to register for a card) is still a problem for Washington and has led to a robust illicit market and lost revenue.
With the Oct., 2015 start of RMJ sales in neighboring Oregon, the back-and-forth of customers searching for best deals in the Portland-Vancouver (WA) metro area has become notorious for cross-state-line activity. Last year, Washington’s top two RMJ stores — Uncle Ikes and Main Street Cannabis — listed their shops for sale with a $50 million price tag. No offers have been reported, as of yet.