KEY POINTS

  • Colorado has brought in $282 million in marijuana taxes and fees so far this year
  • There are four states with marijuana initiatives on the November ballot
  • For the most part, recreational marijuana sales are taxed heavily

Four states could add their names to the growing list of looking to boost their coffers through recreational marijuana sales, though it’ll take smart policy to see a windfall.

Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota have language on the November ballot that would legalize recreational marijuana. Except for New Jersey, which would subject sales to a 6.63% state tax and possibly 2% more in local taxes, those states would tack on taxes of at least 15% on retail sales.

Colorado, a pioneer in U.S. states legalizing recreational pot, year-on-year sales of marijuana are lower so far this year. But since legalization in 2014, the state has massed an estimated $9.2 billion in pot sales, data through August show. Colorado reported taking in $282 million in taxes and fees so far this year.

For Michigan, one of the late-comers to legalization, state data show a steady increase in marijuana sales, with dispensaries recording as much as $14 million in weekly sales. For state coffers, that translates to about $35 million in state and excise taxes since December 2019, when legal sales began.

States with legalization measures on the ballot would funnel the tax revenue toward a variety of programs, from funding emergency services in Arizona’s Proposition 207 to conservation with Montana’s I-190 measure.

Ulrik Boesen, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit examining U.S. tax policy, legal marijuana sales are not a silver bullet for state coffers.

“You can have a good tax system, but if your regulatory system isn’t effective, you won’t see the revenue,” he told CNBC.

In addition to Colorado and Michigan, Alaska, California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts,  Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have legalized recreational weed.