Findings in a new report suggest that the state of Queensland could pull in $90 million in annual tax revenue if it were to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana.
Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Queensland, Australia would generate tens of millions of dollars, says a new report published this month by Brisbane-based firm Bluegreen Economics.
“We find that both the state government and cannabis consumers would realize a significant net benefit under a regulated and taxed recreational cannabis scheme,” the Bluegreen report claims. “For government, there is likely to be increased tax and fee revenue of around $90 million/year in the medium term (three to five years) and significant savings in terms of decreased police, court and prison costs.”
The use, possession, sale, transportation and cultivation of cannabis are currently illegal throughout all of Australia. Queensland Parliament did unanimously pass medical cannabis legislation in October to allow patients with conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and cancer side effects, where conventional treatments have proven ineffective. The Bluegreen Economics report, however, suggests that the state would benefit if it were to go a step further and legalize marijuana for adult use.
“The economy is likely to benefit from a new cannabis industry, depending on the particular regulate and tax model adopted, with new jobs created,” adds the report.
Bluegreen Economics points to the effects of recreational marijuana legalization in the state of Colorado, which began commercial sales in January 2014.
“The data shows that the current financial year (sales to October 2016) is on track to bring in over $200 million in tax/fee revenue for the [Colorado] government, it being noted that this is gross revenue and that there will be associated administration and compliance costs,” reads the report.
The report also indicates that Queensland’s attempt at managing public drug use through prohibition has been unsuccessful. Over the past 15 years, Queensland has continuously had the highest number of cannabis related arrests of all Australian states and territories, and the state’s marijuana usage rate of around 11 percent for those aged 14 years and older has remained consistent during that period.
Despite the findings in the report, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk responded that she would continue to be firm in her stance against legalization.
“Recreational cannabis is an illicit drug when used for non-medical purposes and my government does not support its legalization,” Palaszczuk said. “My government supports the use of medical marijuana for people who need treatment in exceptional circumstances. That’s why Queensland now has the most progressive medicinal cannabis legalization in the country.”
While the majority of Australians believe marijuana should remain illegal, a recent study by Roy Morgan Research indicates that attitudes are gradually shifting. The study, published in November, found that 35 percent of Australians now favor legalizing, up from 22 percent in 2006.
You can read the entire Bluegreen Economics report, “The Economic and Social Benefits and Costs of Legalising Recreational Cannabis in Queensland: A preliminary examination,” here.