How a weight base for marijuana taxes is less arbitrary than beer taxes

A friend objects to a weight base (X cents per gram) for taxing marijuana. “Crop quality varies enormously,” he says, “so it would be arbitrary to assess the same tax per weight for all of it.”

(For a look at an alternative — taxing by seller’s claims of THC — here is a link:

But I still like a weight base (except if we can tax concentrates by potency).  Any tax will distort the market, one way or another.  A weight base is not perfect, but a price base is worse.

Take the beer tax. It’s based on volume only – barrels, or gallons.  Volume for a liquid is like weight for a solid.

The federal beer tax is $18 per 31-gallon barrel. State beer taxes are based on gallons, too. All these taxes apply regardless of price, or alcohol content – or quality.

Folks worry that a cannabis tax based on weight will create an incentive to make each gram as potent as possible.

But that same incentive is present with beer.   Continue reading How a weight base for marijuana taxes is less arbitrary than beer taxes

Questionable objections to marijuana monopoly — Updated July 28, 2015

Here from are two objections to marijuana retail monopoly that don’t hold up, in my opinion:

“For states to establish a monopoly on marijuana production and sales, voters or elected officials would have to approve laws that essentially give state governments control over the marijuana industry. Even if a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, it’s unclear whether they would support turning their state into a pot dealer — and even if they did, state governments might be reluctant to do this, since it would mean forcing state employees to violate federal law . . . ” That’s from

First, voters in some states might like monopoly: A poll I did among North Carolina voters in 2013 showed a clear preference for state stores (58 percent), our model for liquor, over private stores (19 percent), with 23 percent undecided., page 2.

Second, in the face of federal law, North Bonneville, Washington, is already selling marijuana via a quasi-monopoly, a Public Authority of the kind described in Chapter 4 of the RAND Report. See  No arrests yet.

Not only a retail monopoly, of the kind that 17 states have for liquor, seems plausible.  Production monopoly offers a lot of control;  Louisiana is considering having LSU do the growing, as mentioned in a later post.


CO mj tax cut idea

A Colorado bill, HB 15-1367, would cut its special retail excise tax rate on marijuana from 10 percent to 7 percent. Having come to think that early taxes have proved too high, that makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense to me is the effective date – July 1, 2017. Now is the time the industry needs relief.  Twenty-six months from now, prices may be much lower. A lower rate (7 percent) on a lower base (lower prices due to plenty of supply, etc.) just loses revenue. I would think make the rate 7 percent now, and let it bounce back to 10 percent in mid-2017.  Or at least wait and see.

Two recent bills make sense to me, with increasing rates year by year: Congressman Blumenauer’s bill, and a Massachusetts House bill.


Picking Winners: Who Can Grow Marijuana for Sale? — Updated October 2015

UPDATE:  I negotiated the right to post this piece, and have a slightly better version here, or at

Original April 2015 post read this way:  “Picking Winners: Deciding Who Gets to Grow Marijuana Commercially” – an article I wrote (and waived the right to post) is here, or at  Comments welcomed.



Marijuana and Tobacco Laws — Rachel Barry’s Comparison Chart

Rachel Barry, a policy scholar at UC-San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and my colleague on the California Blue Ribbon Commission on marijuana legalization, has prepared this extensive chart or table comparing marijuana laws and tobacco laws.  To see it easily, click on Rachel Barry MJ policies April 17, 2015; a downloadable Word version is Rachel Barry Word MJ policies April 17, 2015.   I think it’s very useful.  The pasted version below gives you an idea, but you will probably need one of those links to see the whole thing.  (This chart is her work in progress, not that of the Commission.)

She welcomes feedback, and hopes to provide updates as laws change. Please contact her directly with suggestions, corrections, questions, and updates:,  I’ll try to keep up with her.  (Thanks, Rachel, for letting me post this.) Continue reading Marijuana and Tobacco Laws — Rachel Barry’s Comparison Chart