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Originally published Friday, March 29, 2013 at 4:10 PM

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Wash. pot consultant: Revenue estimate way off

Estimates of how much money marijuana legalization can bring to the state's coffers have been way off, Washington's new marijuana consultant said.

Associated Press

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Unless the state can supply pot that is CHEAPER, BETTER, and EASIER to get, then WE... MORE

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SEATTLE —

Estimates of how much money marijuana legalization can bring to the state's coffers have been way off, Washington's new marijuana consultant said.

In an interview with public affairs channel TVW aired Thursday, Mark Kleiman said several factors, including competition from the loosely regulated medical marijuana market, illegal sales and high prices are likely to affect the demand for the state-approved marijuana.

"It's entirely possible that by the time we finish regulating and taxing this product, it's going to be uncompetitive with what you can get at the collective gardens," he told Austin Jenkins for the show "Inside Olympia."

Washington and Colorado last year became the first states to pass laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and setting up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores where adults 21 or older can walk in and buy up to an ounce of heavily taxed cannabis. Sales could begin at the end of the year.

In 2011, efforts to regulate the medical marijuana market were vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Gregoire, who said among other reasons that she didn't want state workers dealing with a drug still considered illegal by the federal government.

Kleiman, a University of California, Los Angeles, public policy professor, leads the Massachusetts-based BOTEC Analysis Corp., which the state picked this month to help with the legalization process. The firm includes a former executive of the company that is the sole licensed supplier of medical marijuana in the Netherlands.

It also includes researchers with RAND Corp. who will help figure out how much marijuana state-licensed growers should produce. Kleiman said he hopes to have that estimate ready within a couple of weeks.

Initial estimates said the state could bring in more than $400 million a year from the marijuana market. But Kleiman said if the state sees $100 million in revenue during the first fiscal year, it would be a good start.

While acknowledging state lawmakers are looking for money to stabilize our state budget, Kleiman said the process to launch the marijuana market will take time. Even if The Washington Liquor Control Board finishes its rule-making process on time in December, then it has to issue licenses to grow marijuana. It takes four to five months for a crop to mature.

He said money could start coming in during fiscal year 2014.

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