2 States Are Missing Out On $1.3 Billion Because They Don’t Have Legal Marijuana

Legal marijuana is big business. States that have the loosest laws bring in tons of money each year. Nevada, a state where it’s legal, generated $30 million in revenue in six months. Federal tax revenues could hit $44 billion by 2025, but recreational marijuana is still a rarity, and a few states have harsh marijuana laws. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump want to kill legal marijuana in the U.S. despite all the jobs and tax revenue it creates.

A few states stand to benefit the most from legalization, including two states that could make a combined $1.3 billion. If these 15 states pass legal marijuana laws, they would make tons of money.

15. Maryland

Inner Harbor of Baltimore, Maryland

Maryland could get an additional $165 million in tax revenue if it legalized marijuana.| Melpomenem/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $165 million
  • Current marijuana law: Small personal amounts decriminalized

Maryland doesn’t have legal marijuana, but it is pretty lenient when it comes to punishing possession. Possessing less than 10 grams is merely a civil offense with a $100, and possessing paraphernalia isn’t punished at all. At that rate, the state would probably be much better legalizing it since it would add more than $100 million to the budget at a 25% tax rate, according to figures from the Tax Foundation.

Next: There is a fight for medical marijuana, but full legalization is a better idea.

14. Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Marijuana laws in Missouri are strict. | Tomofbluesprings/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $167 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

Missouri allows prescription cannabidiol (CBD) for certain patients, but other than that the punishment for possession starts with a $500 fine and rapidly escalates to jail time. It looks like some former lawmakers are trying to get medical marijuana on the ballot, but Missouri should think about full legalization and the $167 million it could bring to the state.

Next: The way this state handles marijuana is confounding.

13. Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee could put $182 million in state coffers by legalizing marijuana. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $182 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

Tennessee is a conundrum when it comes to legal marijuana. Or should we say illegal marijuana? The state hands out misdemeanor and felony charges across the board. It is also illegal for someone to have 42.5 grams (roughly 1.5 ounces) or more without a $3.50 per gram state tax stamp.

It’s hard to imagine someone copping to having any amount at all, let alone enough to get a tax stamp, so Tennessee should go with legal marijuana. It could make more than $180 million by doing so.

Next: This state has the harshest laws but could stand to make a huge profit from legal marijuana.

12. Arizona

Gilbert Arizona

Arizona has the toughest marijuana laws in the U.S. | FastGlassPhotos/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $188 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

Arizona’s marijuana laws are the most severe in the country. The penalties start at four months in jail for any amount. The state might not ever make it legal.

AZ Central reports the lead prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest, is adamantly against legal marijuana, probably because his office would lose millions in funding. The state is missing out on nearly $200 in revenue by not making it legal. It’s not hard to imagine a lot of that lost revenue is going to California, Nevada, and Colorado, neighboring states where pot is totally legal.

Next: A state taking the first step toward legalization.

11. Virginia

University of Virginia

Legal marijuanaa doesn’t exist in Virginia. | iStock.com/feixianhu

  • Potential revenue: $231 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

There is no such thing as legal marijuana in Virginia, and it is missing out on more than $230 million in revenue because of it. However, the state is heading toward legalization. In March of 2018, the governor signed legislation that makes CBD oil legal for medical use in the state. Recreational weed is still illegal, but Virginia’s stance is softening.

Next: Things are changing rapidly with a new governor.

10. New Jersey

New Jersey skyline.

The majority of New Jersey residents favor legalization. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $246 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

As of March of 2018, marijuana is illegal in New Jersey, but that might not be the case for long. A 2017 poll finds that New Jersey residents favor legalization by nearly a 3-1 ratio. With former hated Governor Chris Christie out of office and pro-legalization Phil Murphy taking his place, New Jersey stands to cash in on nearly $250 million in legal marijuana revenue.

Next: A state that knows about alcohol wants to treat pot the same.

9. Michigan

Autumn in Traverse City Michigan

Some people in Michigan want to loosent the state’s marijuana laws. | Garyrennis/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $273 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

Michigan has one of the best craft beer scenes in America, and some people in the state are pushing for legal marijuana to be treated like alcohol. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol wants to make it legal for people 21 and older to grow and possess weed. Of course, it would all be taxed. If the state ends up going the fully legal route someday, it could pocket close to $275 million in revenue.

Next: Legalization would be just a fraction of this state’s revenue.

8. North Carolina

North Carolina

In North Carolina, possessing more than a small amount of marijuana is a felony. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $276 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

Marijuana is totally illegal in North Carolina. Possessing small amounts of pot and hash, as well as paraphernalia, are misdemeanor offenses. All other offenses are felonies. The state could haul in hundreds of millions of dollars with legal marijuana, but that’s a small fraction in a state with more than $22 billion in revenue.

Next: A longshot for legalization

7. Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia, USA downtown skyline at dusk.

Marijuana may never be legal in Georgia. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $281 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

Atlanta is pretty liberal, but its state is fairly conservative and most people don’t want legal marijuana. Even though a lot of states are legalizing it, Georgia is one of the states that might never legalize. One ounce or less could get you a year in jail and a $1,000 fine and the state makes plenty of money from thousands of possession arrests each year. If Georgia ever goes the legal route, it stands to make more than $280 million in tax revenue.

Next: This state could make way more than $300 million from legal marijuana.

6. Ohio

Ohio Statehouse

Ohio could bring in $319 million in tax revenue by legalizing weed. | Mike Munden/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $319 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

Ohio is somewhat lax on people possessing marijuana in small amounts, but most of its punishments are felonies. However, the state is working out the kinks on medical marijuana. If that plan works out, Ohio would be foolish not to take the next step and legalize it since it could add close to $320 million in revenue.

Next: Medical marijuana is legal for now, and full legalization would be wise.

5. Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

Legal marijuana could add $350 million to Pennsylvania’s bottom line. | F11photo/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $352 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

More than 10,000 people signed up for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program in late 2017, but Jeff Sessions tossed a wrench into the works in early 2018. The Attorney General, who relishes telling lies about marijuana’s effects, said the federal government will strictly enforce marijuana laws. Where that leaves the medical marijuana program is unknown. What we do know, however, is legal marijuana would add more than $350 million to Pennsylvania’s bottom line.

Next: A state that needs revenue in the worst way.

4. Illinois

The state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois.

Cash-strapped Illinois could get an additional $354 million in marijuana tax revenue if it legalized the drug. | Fotoguy22/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $354 million
  • Current marijuana law: Small personal amounts decriminalized

If you get caught with a small amount of marijuana in Illinois, you’ll pay a fine but you won’t go to jail. Of the states where pot is still illegal, the Land of Lincoln has some of the softest penalties. The state also has a fully functional medical marijuana program, but full legalization is the smart move. Given Illinois’ dismal financial grade, making marijuana legal and adding more than $350 million in revenue is the way to go.

Next: One of the largest pot-smoking states could add more than $500 million.

3. New York

Statue of Liberty and New York

New York could generate nearly half-a-billion dollars in tax revenue through legalization. | MDBrockmann/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $544 million
  • Current marijuana law: Small personal amounts decriminalized

Simple possession is hardly penalized in New York, but having legal marijuana would be a smart move. New York City has more than 8 million people, and the state already has one of the highest pot-smoking rates in the country. By making it fully legal, the state could add close to $550 million in revenue, but that’s not enough to sniff the top of our list.

Next: This hated state could generate some goodwill with legal weed.

2. Florida

Boat dock Fort Myers

Full legalization could be a windfall for Florida. | Ludibarrs/iStock/Getty Images

  • Potential revenue: $557 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

Making marijuana legal might generate some goodwill for the most hated state in America. The state allows CBD oil, the non-psychoactive pain-relieving element in the plant, for certain chronically ill patients, but everything else is strictly illegal. Close to 27,000 people want access to CBD, but Florida should think about full legalization and the $557 million it could bring.

Next: A big amount of money is being squandered as this state punishes marijuana.

1. Texas

Courthouse Victoria Texas

Legalization could bring in millions for the Lone Star Staet. | iStock.com/ LaVonna Moore

  • Potential revenue: $755 million
  • Current marijuana law: Illegal

We covered Arizona and it’s extremely harsh marijuana laws earlier on the list. Texas’ laws are nearly as strict and that won’t change anytime soon, but the Lone Star State is making a little bit of progress. A couple of 2017 bills looking to change the marijuana laws enjoyed support, but never got to a vote. In a conservative state like Texas, that counts as progress. If the state ever ponders legal marijuana, the more than $750 million in revenue it could add is a strong case for a ‘yes’ vote.

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