Cannabis Gave Washington State a Major Lift in 2020

On 4/20, celebrate a growing industry (with its fair share of growing pains).

By Benjamin Cassidy April 20, 2021

It’s 4/20, which means more locals than usual might be hitting up their favorite cannabis shops and dispensaries today. Not that we need any excuse.

A couple of recent reports confirm that social distancing didn't keep us away from our essential neighborhood budtenders last year. A Washington State University study found that statewide retail cannabis sales actually grew 21 percent between 2019 and 2020. And Washington's latest tax revenue data shows that we raked in $469 million from cannabis in FY2020, second only to California's haul.

So nearly a decade after becoming the first state to legalize recreational weed (technically), Washington's starting to reap major financial rewards from all those corner pot shops. It turns out they're even more lucrative than their liquor store counterparts. The state has generated more tax revenue from marijuana retailers than from alcohol sales each of the past two years.

But how does that money benefit us? About half goes to the Basic Health Plan Trust Account, which helps underinsured individuals pay for health care services. Another major chunk is directed to the state's general fund—a vague repository, but one that at least partially supports schools (Crosscut has a full rundown of recipients).

So even if you're not among the 18 percent of Washington adults who regularly consumes, you can perhaps celebrate the cannabis industry's boost to our infrastructure today; after all, our state must compensate for its missing income tax somehow. Or maybe you'd prefer to dwell on Washington's home growing ban and its weed sector's inequity—both valid concerns amid the green gold rush.

Either way, it's all pretty heady stuff.

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