What will recreational marijuana cost? Legislators can’t agree

Published: Sep. 12, 2018 at 5:17 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

UPDATE: Does the reported $6.6 million price tag to recreational marijuana fit the bill?

"It's undetermined how much but we know it's going to cost more," said Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.

"I'm uncomfortable sending the full number out because it's not true," said Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks.

The Office of Management and Budget submitted a report with a breakdown of costs for each agency potentially affected if recreational marijuana, or Measure 3, becomes law. Legislators struggled on whether to accept or reject the numbers.

"To say the costs are unknown, and then when it comes time for the session, we need to somehow find $6.6 million that it costs us because we didn't want to have to put the number on the ballot or put it on the Secretary of State's website I think is wrong," said Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

The most contested debate came over whether to count the Department of Health's $4.3 million cost, mostly for an educational program with television ads and social media campaigns, in the fiscal impact statement.

"The health department doesn't get to write a check and determine this is what they're going to do if this thing passes, the legislature has to approve that," said Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck.

While their costs aren't guaranteed it's an estimate. Other agencies like the Highway Patrol are guessing until they get more clarity.

"Highway Patrol priced it out, this is how much it's going to cost to retrain our K-9, but what was their final number because they don't know," said Mock.

And if the state wants to make money?

"North Dakota, without any kind of other language passed by the legislature, marijuana would only be subject to the state's 5-percent sales tax." said Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger.

Even with the uncertainty, the committee voted 10-5 in favor of the impact statement of $6.6 million, with language saying it could be more.

To read the full report visit: https://www.legis.nd.gov/files/committees/65-2017/19_5184_02000_1425.pdf

If recreational marijuana passes this November, how much will it cost taxpayers? How much will it make? Legislators, Office of Management and Budget, and the Tax Department all said, "who knows?"

The Legislative Management Committee voted on the financial impact to each of the four initiated measures. OMB says recreational marijuana has an estimated effect of $6.6 million.

However that depends on who you ask.

The measure mandates the attorney general's office, counties and state supreme court expunge more than 179,000 criminal records, costing more than $2 million.

That's set in stone.

The health department submitted a fiscal impact of $4.3 million, primarily for creating an education program including TV ads and social media campaigns, but the measure doesn't set that requirement. Which raises the question, can that really be counted as an effect?

"That would be their request to the legislature and their request would have to be approved by the legislature and appropriated in the next session before that could move forward," said Joe Morrissette, Office of Management and Budget director.

The committee voted 10-5 in favor of putting the $6.6 million on the Secretary of State's website, adding language.

However, the true total could be different.