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Orange creamsicle, a type of marijuana sold at Have a Heart marijuana retailer in Greenwood, a neighborhood in north Seattle.
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Orange creamsicle, a type of marijuana sold at Have a Heart marijuana retailer in Greenwood, a neighborhood in north Seattle.
Credit: File: KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Where is all the marijuana tax money going?

Listeners wrote in, asking where the state’s weed money goes. Reporter Anna Boiko-Weyrauch of our SoundQs team explains.

We start with $360 million. That’s how much the state expects to get this fiscal year from taxes and fees from marijuana sales.

64 percent: The biggest portion goes to health care costs for low-income people.

This money goes to Medicaid and community clinics — for doctor’s appointments, kids dental care, hospital visits, medication.

33 percent: This goes into the state’s general fund. This is the state’s all-purpose bank account and most of it pays for education — kindergarten through college. The general fund is a grab bag, though, from nursing homes, to habitat conservation to buying computers for government agencies.

8 percent: This goes to prevent drug and alcohol addiction.

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4 percent: Towns that have marijuana businesses in them.

3 percent: The state's Liquor and Cannabis Board and Department of Health, respectively, get three percent.

A lot of money, right? Well, guess what fraction of the whole state budget marijuana takes up? What percent of EVERYTHING?

Two percent.

Steve Lerch, chief economist of Washington state's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, said when pot became legal, there was a spike in marijuana sales, more and more every month.

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"In July of 2014, you had just a handful of retail stores," Lerch said. "There literally were a lot of places in Washington state where getting recreational marijuana would've been a long drive. By now we have on the order of about 400 retail stores all over the state."

More stores means more legal weed sales, and more legal weed sales means more taxes for Washington state.

The money from the pot industry grows still, but at a mellower pace – about 3 percent a year. That’s about the same as the taxes we get from cigarettes or liquor.