In November, North Dakota voters can weigh in on legalizing “non-violent marijuana related activity” for residents over the age of 21.
Cost estimates top out at roughly $6.6 million for legalizing the drug for recreational use. That price will be spread over a number of years and will include the cost for various state agencies and governments.
However, there are no current estimates on the potential tax revenue from the move, making it tough to decide if the measure is worth the cost.
The state Department of Health noted that more than $3.7 million of that cost will be an educational campaign to make sure state residents are aware of potential health impacts and also the possibility of addiction among youth. However, the campaign is not a necessity, meaning more than half of the expected cost is an option rather than a need.
Meanwhile, more than $1 million of the price tag is attributed to the need to expunge more than 179,000 records related to marijuana charges. This includes an estimated cost for more than 100 temporary staff to assist with this measure.
North Dakota currently has a five-percent sales tax, which would be applied to all sales of marijuana and paraphernalia. Other local sales tax would also apply, but there’s currently no suggestion of a specific tax for the drug itself. Therefore, officials claim the potential revenue is not measurable in any reasonable manner.
For those in favour of legalizing the drug, the price tag does not cause concern. However, for those against the measure, concern is that sales tax is not measurable and therefore, the decision to legalize marijuana will bring nothing but grief for the state. There is also concern that the actual measure, once passed, could cost more for North Dakota than the more than $6 million currently projected.
Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2016. That measure was expected to come with an $8.7 million cost, but the actual expenses only totaled $363,426 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018. This was partially attributed to changes to the law from the time the estimate was made and the actual law was passed. The same could occur for the recreational marijuana law, which means the cost is as uncertain at this point as any potential revenue.