California Marijuana Tax Proposal

July 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
One of the more radical proposals to fill the budget gap involves legalizing marijuana. One TV commercial claims: "The governor and the legislature are ignoring millions of Californians who want to pay taxes; we are marijuana consumers." That commercial running on cable and broadcast television this week was created by a marijuana advocacy group.

"What we have in prohibition is the worst of all possible worlds, a drug that is as common as dirt, and totally unregulated and totally untaxed and it makes no sense," said Bruce Mirken with the Marijuana Policy Project.

Proponents of legalization predict a tax windfall. It takes about three months to grow marijuana, and one high quality plant can produce two ounces with a retail value of about $800, which, under the proposed law would give the state $100.

The bill to legalize was introduced by a legislator from San Francisco. "Well the income from tax is the sales tax and excise tax would probably be in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion. The amount of money that would be saved in terms of incarceration and the not enforcing of minor marijuana crimes I imagine would be another few million if not more," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D) San Francisco.

Marijuana for medical use is already legal in California. There are more dispensaries in Los Angeles than Starbucks coffee shops. But not all proprietors favor full legalization.

Ryan Gaspar, manager of Holland House said, "Some people, they abuse it, and they are going to ruin it for people who really need it."

A recent poll said 56 percent of Californians favor legal marijuana.

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