Marijuana's Potential Economic Impact in Idaho

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Updated: 3/06/2013 6:59 pm

What does liquor at the Caldwell Night Rodeo, relaxing hard alcohol licenses in an east Idaho resort city, and a drone testing site on Idaho soil have in common? All three have been proposed in the state Capitol as ways to improve the economy in the Gem State.

However, one thing the legislature has said is not good for the state, in any form, is marijuana.

The topic of legal marijuana has been hotly debated for years and this past November, Colorado and Washington State took the first steps in ending the prohibition on the drug by legalizing it for recreational use.

By ending the ban, the states are taking a black market item and putting it into the legal marketplace and with that, comes tax revenue. Washington is forecasted to bring in $1.9 billion in the first five fiscal years of legalization. While the Colorado Center on Law and Policy believes the state will see over $32 million in new revenue for the state budget.

Back in the Gem State, late last month the Senate passed a resolution by a margin of 29 to 5 declaring its opposition to pot use in any form. Republican Senator Jim Guthrie of McCammon says it was important for the state to draw a line in the sand when it comes to marijuana.

“I think the resolution is consistent with my philosophy which is marijuana is something we shouldn’t legalize,” said Senator Guthrie, “and when we see bordering states and states around us doing that, I think it’s just a preemptive measure to state Idaho’s position and I’m supportive of that.”

KPVI decided to look into the costs of marijuana prohibition in Idaho. We decided to look into the costs associated with arresting, prosecuting, and jailing someone for trafficking marijuana.

We reached out to get estimates from various officials along the way to get their idea of the number of hours their offices take to deal with these cases.

Our starting point is the February 20th arrest of an Oregon man for trafficking roughly 90 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated $180,000. We will assume the case goes to trial and the man is found guilty.

For one Bannock County Sheriff’s Office deputy to arrest, book, and process the suspect it takes roughly eight hours, at $28.73 per hour that is a total of $229.84

As the suspect makes his way through the court system, the going rate for the judge, court costs, public defender, and prosecutor is $338.25 per hour. If the trial takes 75 hours, the total time in court is worth $25,369.07.

While in court the inmate would likely by housed at the county jail, if he is at the Bannock County Detention Center for 180 days, the county will be spending $11,734.04 for his incarceration at rate of $65.19 per day.

Following the guilty verdict, the inmate would likely be transferred to the Idaho State Correctional Institution to serve the remainder of his sentence. The mandatory minimum sentence for his crime would be five years in prison, if he were to spend the remainder of his term at ISCI (and credit is given for time served) the State will pay $61,425.31 for his incarceration.

Our grand total to take this one criminal and $180,000 worth of marijuana off the street is a total of $98,758.27.

Looking at the revenue side now, what if the drug were legal and was taxed at the same rates Idaho does for cigarettes.

Idaho places a .0285 cent per cigarette excise tax on tobacco. The average cigarette holds one gram of tobacco, so for the 90 pounds the state would make $ $1,163.46 in excise tax. When cigarettes are sold they are also subject to the six percent Idaho Sales Tax. If the marijuana was sold at $2,000 per pound the state would net an additional $10,800 in revenue for a total of $11,963.46.

Under a proposed tax structure in Washington that same 90 pounds would generate over $200,000 in tax revenue.

Using an example tax structure created by a state task force in Colorado, the 90 pounds could potentially make over $100,000 in tax receipts.

The costs to society for marijuana are difficult to pin down but a statement from the Office of National Drug Control Policy says nationally, the US collects $14.5 billion in tax revenue for alcohol but bears a social cost of $185 billion in health care, criminal justice costs, and lost productivity. Tobacco brings in roughly $25 billion but costs society over $200 billion.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

OFM Fiscal Impact Statement (I-502)

Amendment 64 would produce $60 million in new revenue and savings for Colorado

Bannock County FY2013 Budget

Idaho Marijuana Penalties

Idaho FY2013 Legislative Fiscal Report

Accountable Idaho

Idaho Cigarette Tax Information

Colorado Pot Task Force Recommends Special Sales and Excise Taxes

White House Stance on Marijuana Legalization

The Marijuana Exception

Legalizing Marijuana, Need to Know by PBS

The Price of Legalizing Pot is Too High

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Here are the most recent story comments.View All

cherokee1111 - 3/7/2013 10:19 AM
0 Votes
Well that is what happens with simple minds, especially in politics, they can not admit to themselves that it would be good for the economy, especially in a Dominate Mormon State. God forbid they actually look at true facts, instead they still legalize alcohol, which has caused more deaths than Marijuana ever has.

pokysmoky - 3/7/2013 9:42 AM
0 Votes
What are the current social costs of cannabis use in America? Are they comparable to alcohol and tobacco? Doesn’t a large amount of people in America use cannabis? These overwhelming social costs should be self-evident, right?
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