On October 9, many Maine dispensaries will be able to open for cannabis sales to anyone over the age of 21. Maine will be imposing a 10 percent tax and excise tax structure on recreational sales.

A central argument of legalizing recreational cannabis is that it could be a serious money maker for state governments. But exactly how serious?

The state closest to Maine’s population and economy is Vermont, which was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 2004, but has yet to allow commercial recreational sales. Alaska has the smallest economy of states with recreational cannabis. In January, they reported $2 million in excise tax revenue for 2019, a small jump from 2018 but record-setting.

Oregon, which has no statewide sales tax, levies a 17 percent tax against cannabis. Michigan levies its state sales tax of 10 percent and Nevada has set a 10 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax on cannabis sales, plus a very Nevadan rule that citizens cannot grow at home if they live within 25 miles of a dispensary.

Here are some more details about Maine’s fellow recreational states.


In 2018, on opening day of recreational sales in Massachusetts, more than $440,000 was spent at the two locations that were open that day. The market now reports around $1 million a day in sales, taxed at 10.75 percent.


Colorado was the first state to get commercial recreational sales off the ground and remains a legal pioneer. The Denver Post reported that June and July sales set new monthly records and calculated the lifetime 15 percent excise tax haul of Colorado recreational sales at $1.21 billion. This year, Colorado started offering business licenses for social consumption, though with an opt-in structure for towns and cities, only three lounges existed as of February.


Starting in July 2014 the state has collected a nationwide high 37 percent tax on recreational cannabis, just like it does on all other retail sales. 2019 revenue was reported at just under $400 million.


As the fifth largest economy in the world, California gathered almost as much tax revenue from cannabis sales in two years as Colorado has done in six. The state reported $1.08 billion lifetime revenue from the program in February, making annual cannabis sales and excise tax revenue less than half a percent of the state’s annual total.


Illinois has the second largest GDP of the recreational states and the first day of the year marked the first day of sales there, when $3.2 million was spent by consumers. After a busy first month, sales declined then crept back up to a record-setting July. At this point, using an excise and sales tax system on various products, the state has gathered $52 million in tax revenue, almost doubling their own projection of $28 million.

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