New marijuana, min. wage laws will bring fiscal benefits to mostly blue states

Every new year in America new laws are implemented and newly elected leaders take office to enforce those reforms.  Twenty states will enact mandated wage increases above the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour in 2018.

Washington state and Maine had increases of a more than a dollar due to laws passed in 2016.  Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont have increases of 50 cents an hour this year while Alaska, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota will raise their respective wages by less than 50 cents.

Oregon and Maryland’s minimum wage will increase on July 1.

According to economist Jared Bernstein, the minimum wage has been increased in the states highlighted above because individuals in low wage jobs are more likely to be more highly educated than before.  It is also speculated the political climate in these states is a factor, as seven out of the 20 states with increases were won by Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

In addition to California increasing its minimum wage, the Golden State also became the seventh state to legalize recreational marijuana, including Washington, D.C.  

Both laws should increase California’s tax revenue and lower criminal justice costs from prosecuting low-level marijuana offenders.  Other states with legalized pot are Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Nevada.

Despite progressive reforms of mainly Western states related to the drug, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week the Justice Department would again grant U.S. prosecutors the ability to enforce federal marijuana laws — canceling internal policy guidance issued during the Obama administration which recommended not prosecuting legitimate cannabis operators in states which had legalized its use.

The move is likely to result in a patchwork of enforcement approaches based on the federal attorney in each state.

“When the policy is so broad and uncertain that it’s left case by case to different decision makers, it creates confusion and uncertainty that can be unjust,” said former Colorado U.S. attorney, John Walsh

(courtesy GOVERNING)

Alaska is the only state Trump won that both increased its minimum wage in 2018 and has legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Massachusetts and Maine have passed laws allowing retail pot sales, although both must overcome major political roadblocks before the policy is implemented.

Other states set to formally propose or adopt marijuana legalization laws in the near-future include, New Jersey, Michigan, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

 

[The Hill] [CNN] [AP] [Los Angeles Times via Chicago Tribune] [Image courtesy WoahStork]