Traditional drug dealers are still formidable competitors in U.S. states where cannabis is legal. Governments planning for huge tax windfalls and investors expecting rapid market-share gains have to adjust to a slower burn.
Legalization of cannabis in California, currently the world’s largest recreational pot market, has been bumpy. Restrictions on adult use were lifted in January 2018 and the Californian legislature projected $1 billion in annual state and local taxes from cannabis sales within a few years. However, the actual windfall is proving underwhelming, and the state department of finance is now trimming its estimate. Pot excise taxes are forecast to generate $360 million in the 2019/20 budget year, down from the $514 million projected at the start of 2019.
Several factors are stymieing legitimate sales. Although legal at the state level, a majority of municipalities have banned retail sales of cannabis—an unforeseen complication. Californians also have a penchant for growing their own cannabis plants at home.