Bill to Legalize Marijuana in California Could Generate $1.4 billion Annually

July 16, 2009

(ChattahBox) — While California lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger struggle to make a deal to close the state’s $26 billion budget gap in ways that would require extraordinarily deep cuts to school systems, local governments, and social services, there is a new bill on the table that could be a new source of income for the  state.

Assembly Bill 390 sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would allow adults 21 and older to legally possess, grow and sell marijuana and would impose not only sales taxes but a $50 per ounce fee on marijuana sales, which would be licensed by the state much as alcoholic beverages are regulated. The State Board of Equalization report estimates marijuana retail sales would bring $990 million from a $50-per-ounce fee and $392 million in sales taxes.  Ammiano said in a statement:

“We can no longer afford to keep our heads in the sand when it comes to marijuana. The move towards regulating and taxing marijuana is long overdue and simply common sense. The benefits of regulation are clear – controlling marijuana would generate up to $1.3 billion in much needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes.  It defies reason to propose closing parks and eliminating vital services for the poor while this potential revenue is available. California has an historic opportunity to be the first state in the nation to enact a smart, responsible public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana.”

The bill currently stipulates that the state could not begin collecting taxes until the federal government legalizes marijuana, but a spokesman says Ammiano plans to amend the bill to remove that provision. The legislation requires all revenue generated by the $50-per-ounce fee to be used for drug education and rehabilitation programs.

Meanwhile a group of Northern California criminal defense attorneys on Wednesday submitted a pot legalization measure to the state attorney general’s office, that would repeal all state and local laws that criminalize marijuana. If cleared by the AG, about 450,000 signatures are necessary to place The Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act on the November 2010 ballot.

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