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The Taxation of Recreational Marijuana: Evidence from Washington State

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  • Benjamin Hansen
  • Keaton Miller
  • Caroline Weber

Abstract

The median United States voter supports the legalization of marijuana, at least in part due to a desire to increase state tax revenues. However, states with legal markets have implemented wildly different regulatory schemes with tax rates ranging from 3.75 to 37 percent, indicating that policy makers have a range of beliefs about industry responses to taxes and regulation. We examine a policy reform in Washington: a switch from a 25 percent gross receipts tax collected at every step in the supply chain to a sole 37 percent excise tax at retail. Using novel, comprehensive administrative data, we assess responses to the reform throughout the supply and consumption chain. We find the previous tax regime provided strong incentives for vertical integration. Tax invariance did not hold, with some types of firms benefiting much more than predicted. Consumers bear 44 percent of the additional retail tax burden. Finally, we find evidence that consumer demand for marijuana is price-inelastic in the short-run, but becomes price-elastic within a few weeks of a price increase.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Hansen & Keaton Miller & Caroline Weber, 2017. "The Taxation of Recreational Marijuana: Evidence from Washington State," NBER Working Papers 23632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23632
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman & Warren K. Bickel & Henry Saffer, 1999. "The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometrics and Behavioral Economic Research," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number chal99-1, June.
    2. Matthew Harding & Ephraim Leibtag & Michael F. Lovenheim, 2012. "The Heterogeneous Geographic and Socioeconomic Incidence of Cigarette Taxes: Evidence from Nielsen Homescan Data," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 169-198, November.
    3. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1145-1177, September.
    4. Pogue, Thomas F., 2007. "The Gross Receipts Tax: A New Approach to Business Taxation?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(4), pages 799-819, December.
    5. Liana Jacobi & Michelle Sovinsky, 2016. "Marijuana on Main Street? Estimating Demand in Markets with Limited Access," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(8), pages 2009-2045, August.
    6. Wojciech Kopczuk & Justin Marion & Erich Muehlegger & Joel Slemrod, 2016. "Does Tax-Collection Invariance Hold? Evasion and the Pass-Through of State Diesel Taxes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 251-286, May.
    7. Carlos Dobkin & Nancy Nicosia, 2009. "The War on Drugs: Methamphetamine, Public Health, and Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 324-349, March.
    8. Poterba, James M., 1996. "Retail Price Reactions to Changes in State and Local Sales Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 49(2), pages 165-176, June.
    9. D. Mark Anderson & Benjamin Hansen & Daniel I. Rees, 2013. "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(2), pages 333-369.
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    11. Testa, William A. & Mattoon, Richard H., 2007. "Is There a Role for Gross Receipts Taxation?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(4), pages 821-840, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Benjamin Hansen & Keaton Miller & Caroline Weber, 2017. "The Grass is Greener on the Other Side: How Extensive is the Interstate Trafficking of Recreational Marijuana?," NBER Working Papers 23762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Benjamin Hansen & Keaton S. Miller & Caroline Weber, 2018. "Early Evidence on Recreational Marijuana Legalization and Traffic Fatalities," NBER Working Papers 24417, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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