With two weeks to go before lawmakers vote on legislation to legalize marijuana, state analysts have yet to calculate the fiscal impact of Maine’s adult-use cannabis bill.
Lawmakers tasked with setting up the new recreational market had projected Maine would collect about $21.4 million a year in taxes once the market matured. On Thursday, the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review told the committee its proposed rewrite of a voter-approved cannabis law would have netted even more, about $27.7 million a year, before the committee changed its proposed tax scheme.
According to new tax projections from the state Department of Administration and Financial Services, which state analysts hadn’t had an opportunity to review on Thursday, the committee’s decision to levy a combination 10 percent excise and 10 percent sales tax on cannabis will not generate as much revenue as a 20 percent sales tax, although how much less was uncertain Thursday.
In addition, the new information from the financial services agency means the cost of implementing a new regulatory structure could be more than the $2 million projected in the fiscal note for the adult-use cannabis bill because state agencies now say they need more than 17 people to license, regulate and tax the new industry. The exact number of staff the agencies believe they need was uncertain on Thursday.
That leaves both revenue and cost estimates uncertain just two weeks before an Oct. 23 special session vote, principal analyst Marc Cyr said.
“We’re submitting a fiscal note that has more cautionary notes than real projections because we haven’t had time to calculate the impact of all the last-minute changes, and because we are only just now getting some of the information we need from state agencies,” said Cyr, who is in charge of preparing legislative fiscal notes.