But because of the slow rollout of pot stores and their far-flung locations, tax revenues have been disappointing so far. The state projected it would reap $63 million in taxes by June 30, but had received only $5.9 million as of March 1.
The projection assumed “a reasonable number” of stores would be open last July, Revenue Commissioner Christopher Harding said in 2017. Instead, the first shops opened in late November, four months later.
“The numbers are low, but it’s too early in the birthing of this particular industry to be able to actually calculate whether we’re on or off track for our revenues,” Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan said at a budget hearing this month.
Three months into recreational pot sales, Massachusetts had nine stores open that had sold $45 million worth of marijuana, or about $6.60 per resident. That’s less than in Nevada, Colorado, and California, where $30, $8.70, and $8.17 were sold per person in their first three months, according to a Globe analysis of sales data.
Those states allowed stores to open far more quickly — Colorado had 181 shops licensed three months in — with locations near tourism and population hubs such as Denver, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Greater Boston still has no stores. The first is slated to open Saturday in Brookline.
Industry analysts say Massachusetts has a much slower local approval process and a more complex system to navigate than other states, where medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed a simpler process to begin nonmedical sales.
The underwhelming tax revenues have thrown into question the state’s projection of $133 million for fiscal year 2020, which starts July 1.