Marijuana industry is a cash cow for Washington, yet many local stores struggle to stay afloat

Whether you are a pot smoker or not, all the money it generates, and we mean tons of money, impacts us all.

In 2021, Washington collected $559.5 million from marijuana sales and license fees.

That is nearly $287 million more than liquor revenue.

With Washington’s legalization of pot almost every demographic in the state started using cannabis more.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, by 2017, nearly 28% of 18 to 24 year olds said they had used marijuana in the last 30 days.

When you ask people if they have ever used marijuana, interestingly, the highest percentage of users were those 55 to 64 years old with nearly 68% saying they had tried marijuana.

So where does all the money go?

Data from the office of the Washington State Treasurer shows that in 2021 the majority of funds generated went to health care. 

  • General fund – $191 million
  • Basic health – $272 million
  • Local governments – $15 million
  • Washington state health care authority – $54 million
  • Department of health – $9.7 million
  • Washington State Patrol – $2.3 million
  • Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board – $10.4 million
  • Other – $1.8 million

For example, a lot of money is going to low income people to access healthcare programs like Medicaid.

The second largest chunk goes to the state’s general fund, which goes to operating cost and things like K-12 education.

"A lot of people blame the Liquor and Cannabis Board that they are getting this money, they have a small budget," Ian Eisenberg said.

Bellingham Police seek cannabis shop armed robbery suspect

Bellingham Police are looking for a suspect who reportedly stole from a cannabis shop late Saturday morning.

Eisenberg, who owns Uncle Ike’s, said another misconception is that local pot stores are making bank.

The reality is that every time someone checks out at the register about half of that money goes to taxes, right to state and local governments.

"Most cannabis businesses in this state are barely breaking even or losing money," Eisenberg said.

Outside of those slim margins, Eisenberg said one of the biggest concerns rocking their industry is safety.

Too many marijuana store robberies to count fueled by the fact that pot stores can only accept cash.

Because pot is a schedule 1 drug federally, stores cannot accept credit cards.

Officials destroy $3 million worth of pot on Eastern Washington farms

About 13,000 pounds of marijuana valued at around $3 million was destroyed this week outside of three adjoining Touchet, Washington, cannabis farms accused of growing more than allowed by state law.

"We can’t get Visa or Mastercard account because credit cards go interstate they go across state lines," Eisenberg said. 

Pot stores cannot do business with regular banks but in Washington state credit unions have stepped in. Eisenberg says he is grateful that at least credit unions can safely keep their money, without them, he says there would just be duffel bags full of cash everywhere. 

But the system is far from perfect according to Eisenberg. He says the long term solution is for marijuana to become legal nationwide in the meantime he is asking for more funding for police so they can beef up security around this problem.

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