THE BLOG
09/04/2014 12:49 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2014

The Desperate Claims of Josh Marquis, Part II: There's No Money in Legal Weed

In continuing my dissection of the obfuscations and half-truths of Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis, the leading spokesperson for law enforcement's opposition to marijuana legalization in Oregon, I happened upon a statement of his on his personal Facebook page that claims Measure 91's legalization of marijuana won't provide any tax revenues to local law enforcement:

Section 44 is a spaghetti-like maze of divvying up what is likely to be very little net revenue. In order to compete with the "black market" M-91 keeps taxes much lower than WA or CO - $35 an ounce for bud.

That's true about the taxes, they are just $35 per ounce.  But "very little net revenue" seems specious, as various estimates from economists peg the revenues between $30 million and $105 million.  The state estimates $17 - $40 million.

So IF the state collects $20 million first you have deduct the costs of regulation, like with booze.

According to the state"s own analysis, those costs of start-up are estimated to be $300,000 in FY 2015, $2.5 million in FY 2016, and $1 million in FY 2017, totaling almost $3.8 million over three years.  Costs of regulation at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission are estimated to be $3.2 million per year, or $9.6 million over three years.  "IF the state collects $20 million" a year, that's $60 million over three years, minus the $3.8 million start-up and $9.6 million regulation costs, and we have a net revenue of $46.6 million over three fiscal years, or about $15.5 million a year net, or what Josh Marquis calls "very little net revenue."

Then read read 44(2)(B)(i) and you'll learn that getting revenue depends on how many stores a city has (fewer stores, less money) and while 15% does go to the State Police the remaining amount for law enforcement is ONLY to "perform it's duties under this act."

That's true as well.  10 percent goes to cities and 10 percent goes to counties in proportion to the number of marijuana licensees operating in the city or county.  If your city or county bans marijuana licensees, then it needs neither the revenue to regulate marijuana nor deserves the benefits of regulated marijuana.

So, since almost no cops are tasked to enforce marijuana laws AND you can only use local cop money to enforce marijuana laws, in most towns it will mean the local police get...nothing.

If a town bans marijuana licensees, yes, it will get nothing.  But where is this "no cops are tasked to enforce marijuana laws" coming from?  Cops enforce marijuana laws at least 12,000 times a year in Oregon.

But if your town does allow marijuana licensees, then yes, the share of the 10 percent your city gets will pay your police to enforce the marijuana laws "under this act".  That could include stings against under-aged entrance to pot shops, response to smell complaints about grow sites, investigations of illegal and unlicensed grows, search warrants against illegal home butane hash oil manufacture, and so on.

With 15 percent of our assumed $15.5 million in Measure 91 tax revenue dedicated for state police, that's $2.3 million a year.  For the local cops, their 10 percent is $1.5 million a year for county sheriffs and $1.5 million a year for local police.  There are 36 counties in Oregon, so the mean amount available will be $43,000 per year per county, with greater amounts for populous counties with lots of marijuana licensees and lesser amounts for smaller counties.  Of course, if a county bans all marijuana licensees, then the 10 percent is only divided among 35 counties and everyone's share increases.

Similarly, there are 242 incorporated cities in Oregon, so the mean amount available per city would be about $6,400 a year, more for big cities with lots of licenses, less for small towns.  And again, every city that bans licensees means more money for the others.

So even with Josh Marquis's assumption of $20 million a year in marijuana revenues, an average Oregon county could make $43,000 a year and an average Oregon city could make $6,400 a year.  Go with the state estimates and it could be more than double that.  Or as Marquis puts it, if we tax and regulate marijuana and give 35 percent of the proceeds to law enforcement, "police get...nothing."