Will Marijuana Fix California's Budget Mess?

July 23, 2009 12:10:06 AM PDT
As law enforcement officers continue their crackdown on illegal marijuana grows, advocates in California are stepping up their efforts to legalize and then tax marijuana. The results of a new Action News poll show that while the majority of Californians do agree that the use of medicinal marijuana is okay, they're still not ready to legalize it completely.Even as the state faces a $26.3 billion dollar shortfall, voters aren't quite ready to legalize marijuana. The results of an exclusive Action News poll conducted by Survey USA show that about 41 percent of those surveyed say marijuana should be legal, while 54 percent are against legalization. If it were legal, 85 percent think it should be taxed.

The use of medicinal marijuana is already legal in California. In Los Angeles Wednesday, hundreds of card-carrying users lined up for an unusual giveaway... a free dose of their preferred painkiller. The crowd's enthusiasm was disturbing to Fresno substance abuse counselor Debbie Harkness. "The whole mood looked like a whole bunch of juveniles cheering on the onset of a concert of something," said Harkness.

Harkness does not support the legalization of marijuana and says the giveaway in southern California illustrates the lack of oversight for its medicinal use. "If you just tell them you have an ache or pain anywhere, anybody can get a card," said Harkness.

The movement to legalize and tax both the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana is growing during these difficult economic times. One group is running television ads asking to be taxed and just this week, the city of Oakland approved an additional tax on medicinal marijuana dispensaries. But the operator of this dispensary in Fresno's tower district says government shouldn't balance the budget on the backs of marijuana patients. "If you're taxing the medicinal aspect of it, I think there's a problem with that because you're taxing a medication," said Rick Morse of Medmar Clinic.

Central valley voters are more hesitant to allow any kind of marijuana use. Here, about 65 percent are against its recreational use compared to 54 percent statewide.

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