Marijuana legalization could cost millions

ANCHORAGE,  — A regulatory system and enforcement involving legalized marijuana could cost Alaska $3.7 million to $7 million, according to a report by eight state agencies.

Alaskans will consider a pot legalization measure on the Aug. 19 primary ballot then would have nine months to prepare for legalization if voters say yes.

The report included information from the departments of Public Safety, Environmental Conservation and others, the Anchorage Daily News said Sunday.

The cost analysis was presented last month to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The report acknowledged that details about legalization remain to be worked out.

“There are numerous unknowns,” it said.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Alaska said the report was not objective or well-researched.

“It was put together hastily by government bureaucrats who have a vested interest in arguing for bigger budgets and more money from Juneau,” campaign spokesman Taylor Bickford said.

The eight agencies used information from Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana is already legal, to estimate costs. First-year costs would be higher than later years, the report said.

“Over the longer term, it would be expected that more of the state’s total costs would become public health and education activities as the extent of the impact on public health becomes more defined,” the report said.

An extra position to inspect food facilities selling marijuana products would cost $136,900, according to the DEC. The Public Safety Department said it would request three more troopers to investigate tax-evading growers exporting Alaska marijuana outside a tax system.

“Demand for Alaska-grown marijuana is high due to its exceptional THC content,” the report said.

The department would also want $1.4 million to pay for a media campaign warning of the dangers of driving while stoned and to pay for trooper training so they could determine if a driver is high.

The Department of Revenue said it would need a tax auditor, tax technician and investigator to govern any excise tax created by the new law.

The report did not estimate tax revenues generated by legal marijuana. In Colorado, marijuana sales generated $3.5 million in taxes and fees in January.

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