Boston University School of Law
On January 4, 2018, the Trump Administration through Attorney General Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from bringing charges in all but the most serious marijuana cases under the federal Controlled Substances Act, as well as under the Bank Secrecy Act. Federal law is at odds with state law in the majority of states on the legalization and subsequent state taxation of marijuana. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have at least partially legalized marijuana. Eight of these states have legalized both medicinal and recreational use. With limited exceptions, legalized sales of marijuana are taxed.
Aside from “compassionate use” of medicinal marijuana, the States have seen real business development and job creation opportunities by legalizing the marijuana trade – estimates of 250,000 new jobs by 2020 are common.
State marijuana revenue measures are not harmonized today. Both the tax rates and the commercial stages at which marijuana transactions are taxed diverge widely. Rates range from zero for medicinal use (in Delaware, DC, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oregon) to roughly 47% (for recreational marijuana, slightly less for medicinal) in Washington. For the most part, state marijuana taxes cascade with excise taxes appearing in the retail sales tax base.
This paper proposes to analyze state marijuana enforcement and taxation through the lens of European value added taxes (VAT). There is a closer harmony between the EU and the US in this area than might be expected. EU VAT proposals for tax harmonization and enforcement, and applies them to the US. The proposals are technology-intensive. They integrate well with the digital track and trace systems employed by US States to control legalized marijuana. The first proposal is to place the central portion of the marijuana supply chain on a private blockchain that is shared among the states. Transactions in marijuana will be preserved in real-time (locally and centrally). Data will be shared among State authorities to aid enforcement, and tax collection.
The second proposal is for a limited-purpose cryptotaxcurrency. This would be a crypto-token like VATCoin that is digitally minted by the government. For example, CALCoin. CALCoin would be the only currency allowed for marijuana-related purchases within California. Frauds related to excessive “home grown” marijuana, and the use of Dark Cloud-based Zappers in retail dispensaries are also considered.
Richard T. Ainsworth,
Taxing & Zapping Marijuana: Blockchain Compliance in the Trump Administration,
Boston University School of Law, Law & Economics Research Paper 18-03
Available at: https://scholarship.law.bu.edu/faculty_scholarship/283