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Advocates of Taxing Marijuana Push Ahead in Florida, Pennsylvania

Thursday, October 17, 2019

  • Florida petition needs over 750,000 signatures to land on Nov. 2020 ballot
  • Pennsylvania lawmaker is certain marijuana law will land on governor’s desk

Proposals to legalize recreational marijuana are gaining speed in two of the nation’s most populated states, and there’s potentially hundreds of millions in tax revenue on the line.

Lawmakers and lobbyists in Florida and Pennsylvania hope the two influential states will be among the next jurisdictions joining the 11 states that have already legalized recreational pot.

In Florida, a petition to legalize recreational marijuana was added to the Florida Division of Elections on Sept. 9. Nick Hansen, chair of Make It Legal Florida, the political committee that filed the petition, said Oct. 17 that more than 100,000 signatures have been collected. More than 6,000 signatures had been certified so far, state records show.

Advocates need 766,200 signatures to put the measure on the state’s November 2020 ballot. Hanson said that he’s “very confident” the petition will reach the target number by the Feb. 2, 2020, deadline.

Hansen said market analysts have forecast an adult use market in Florida at $4 billion to $4.9 billion.

The petition only needs to secure about 10% of the threshold—or 76,632 signatures—to force the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider the state’s ban on recreational pot, and formally publish tax revenue estimates on legal pot, according to Hansen. Medical marijuana was approved by Florida voters in 2016.

Of 11 states that have legalized recreational marijuana, seven are selling and taxing the product. Excise and sales tax revenue could reach $1.6 billion in 2019 alone, according to an August analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

$1 Billion in Tax Revenue

In Pennsylvania, a bill (S.B. 305) introduced Oct. 15 would legalize recreational pot and set a 17.5% tax on retail pot.

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D), who introduced the bill, estimated Pennsylvania could see a first-year tax revenue haul of $500 million, and upwards of $1 billion in tax revenue four years into legalization.

“We will get this passed,” Leach said. “we need to first hold hearings and have negotiations on the bill, but I would say it’s our goal to have this on the governor’s desk by fall of 2020.”

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