The marijuana industry has some strange bedfellows, but Roger Stone, former campaign advisor to President Donald Trump, might be the strangest. Stone has urged Trump to follow through on his campaign promise to allow states to regulate marijuana without federal interference, pointing to the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have collected since legalizing adult-use.
In an interview with The Intercept, Stone, who consulted Trump during his presidential campaign for three months, warned that President Trump could do damage to his base of passionate supporters, especially the young, libertarian voters, if he goes after recreational marijuana.
Stone says the "intellectual inconsistency" of Trump supporting states' rights to legalize medical marijuana but threatening greater enforcement against the recreational sector of the industry, could be "harmful to the Trump coalition" who voted for him as a supporter of limited federal government, Stone said.
But, most importantly, Stone said that enforcing federal laws against the regulated, multi-billion dollar marijuana industry would have a negative affect on the economy in states with fully-operating adult-use markets like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
"If you crack down on the three states that have passed recreational marijuana, you'll lose roughly 200,000 jobs," said Stone. "States and counties will go bankrupt because they've already budgeted the tax revenue."
While Stone has a reputation of using dirty tricks and bending facts to fit a narrative to promote his invested interests, he is right about how marijuana tax dollars and fees offer a much-needed revenue stream to state budgets.
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the state's medical and recreational marijuana industry brought in $1.3 billion in sales and the state collected almost $200 million in taxes and fees in 2016. The tax dollars for the state goes to fund school construction projects, public health, and law enforcement agencies.
Oregon collected $60.2 million in marijuana tax revenue in 2016, which has been helping the state deal with a $1.8 billion budget shortfall, according to the Oregon Department of Revenue. In 2016, Washington state collected over $255 million in tax dollars and fees.
As five other states, including California, start the process of implementing adult-use regulated markets, and 28 states in total have medical markets, the industry is projected to grow eight times its current size in the next three years. A Cowen & Co. report predicts the marijuana industry to be worth $50 billion by 2020.
Can the U.S. afford not to collect taxes on $50 billion? Stone says "no."