Carl Brewer: It is Time to Legalize and Tax the Production and Sale of Medical Marijuana

Currently, 29 other states have legalized the production and sale of medicinal marijuana. This is a majority, not just a West Coast trend.  These states include our neighbors New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado. It is time for Kansas to do the same. We cannot afford to ignore this source of new tax revenue.  We should also put it on the ballot for our citizens to decide whether to legalize the production, sale and possession of marijuana for personal use.

This state has experienced devastating effects from the implementation of former

Gov. Brownback’s tax experiment. While changes to those policies last year have led to modest increases in revenue, the need for substantial increases in state spending continue.  According to a study funded by the Kansas Legislature, we need $1.7 billion in new funding for public education over the next 5 years.

On other topics, how much money to date (over $1 billion by 2016) has been stolen from the Highway Fund to keep state government going? How many law enforcement and prison employees are needed to keep those institutions orderly and sanitary, and our streets safe? We cannot hope to fill these staffing needs if we do not increase the wages currently being paid.

It is time to legalize and tax the production and sale of medicinal marijuana in Kansas in order to create new revenue.  It is also time to ask our citizens whether Kansas should legalize the production, sale and personal use of marijuana.  To date, 9 states have legalized the production, possession and sale of marijuana for personal use, and Delaware has legalized marijuana for personal use, but not sale. 

In 2016, Colorado enjoyed $200 million in new tax revenue directly from marijuana sales, and some analysts estimate that Colorado has collected over $506 million in tax and fees from medicinal and recreational sale and production on marijuana since inception.  About half of those new revenues are devoted to funding K – 12 public education.

69% of Americans favoring legalization according to a Gallup poll conducted in October 2017. The poll also shows these ideas are not partisan, with a majority of Republicans surveyed supporting the legalization as well.

Kansas could solve its revenue problems if this were to become law. We could even eliminate the sales tax on food and prescription drugs and keep other traditional sources of tax revenue at modest levels.  Kansas would have to be careful implementing such a law.  We need to study how other states have successfully drafted their laws. But we first need to learn how Kansans feel about legalization. It’s time to put it on the ballot and let the citizens of this state decide.