A “grass” roots effort for funding roads

With highway funding in a constant place of uncertainty, many states are looking for unique ways to find money to pay for our roads. One state may have found a very green alternative to traditional funding sources.

With attitudes toward marijuana quickly changing in the U.S., one state legislator in Michigan has recently suggested raising a “grass” tax instead of a gas tax to fund roads, police and schools.

Democratic state Rep. Brandon Dillon represents the 75th House District, which includes part of the city of Grand Rapids. East Lansing recently became the latest city in Michigan to decriminalize marijuana, following other cities such as Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale and Mount Pleasant. When decriminalization was put before Grand Rapids voters in 2012, 60% said yes. In a recent editorial on mlive.com, Dillion wrote that recent surveys show more than half of Michigan residents are in favor of legalizing, regulating and taxing the adult use of marijuana.

There are many concerns with legalizing marijuana – one being an increase in crime. That hasn't been the case in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, however, where marijuana is already legal and regulated. In fact, Dillion points out, the year after regulated marijuana was approved in Colorado, violent and property crimes fell 6.9%. 

Similarly, in states that have approved the medical use of marijuana, alcohol-related fatalities have fallen 12%. Dillion also feels taking marijuana off street corners and tightly regulating its production and sale will make it less available to minors.

Legalizing marijuana can bring a lot of money into a state. This has been proven by states that not only regulate but tax marijuana. Colorado imposes a 15% wholesale excise tax and 10% sales tax on marijuana. Along with other various license fees, medical and recreational marijuana receipts have added $76 million to state coffers last year. Other states are experimenting with different tax structures, but all anticipate higher state revenues that can be spent on schools, roads, police and other priorities, says Dillion.

Of course, taxes raised from regulating marijuana won’t be a magic bullet for Michigan or any other state looking to fund roads. It would be a big step, however, for generating some much needed revenue which could help us avoid raising user fees like the gas tax. What do you think about legalizing marijuana to fund roads? Let me know at LCleaver@ACBusinessmedia.com.

On a different note, this month our website, ForConstructionPros.com, debuted its Profit Matters channel, which highlights how contractors are improving profitability by implementing technology and best practices throughout their company operating structure. Be sure to check it out at ForConstructionPros.com/profit-matters.

Thanks for reading!