#402 Governor Asks: What If Pot’s Legal And Taxed?

Date: Mon, 11 May 2009
Subject: #402 Governor Asks: What If Pot’s Legal And Taxed?

GOVERNOR ASKS: WHAT IF POT’S LEGAL AND TAXED?

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #402 – Monday, 11 May 2009

Last Wednesday morning the readers of the The Sacramento Bee were
treated to the front page article, below.

Since then the press articles and editorial page content have been
slowly increasing. The items can be accessed at http://www.mapinc.org/people/Schwarzenegger

The news clippings are worthy of letters to the editor.

As this is sent the largest California newspaper, the Los Angeles
Times, has not mentioned Governor Schwarzenegger’ comments. Thus a
message to the newspaper may also be appropriate. See
http://drugsense.org/url/bc7El3Yo for contact details.

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GOVERNOR ASKS: WHAT IF POT’S LEGAL AND TAXED?

As California struggles to find cash, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said
Tuesday it’s time to study whether to legalize and tax marijuana for
recreational use.

The Republican governor did not support legalization – and the federal
government still bans marijuana use – but advocates hailed the fact
that Schwarzenegger endorsed studying a once-taboo political subject.

“Well, I think it’s not time for ( legalization ), but I think it’s
time for a debate,” Schwarzenegger said. “I think all of those ideas
of creating extra revenues, I’m always for an open debate on it. And
I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are
doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did
it have on those countries?”

Schwarzenegger was at a fire safety event in Davis when he answered a
question about a recent Field Poll showing 56 percent of registered
voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana to raise revenue for
cash-strapped California. Voters in 1996 authorized marijuana for
medical purposes.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has written legislation to
allow the legal sale of marijuana to adults 21 years and older for
recreational use. His Assembly Bill 390 would charge cannibis
wholesalers initial and annual flat fees, while retailers would pay
$50 per ounce to the state.

The proposal would ban cannibis near schools and prohibit smoking
marijuana in public places.

Marijuana legalization would raise an estimated $1.34 billion annually
in tax revenue, according to a February estimate by the Board of
Equalization. That amount could be offset by a reduction in cigarette
or alcohol sales if consumers use marijuana as a substitute.

Besides raising additional tax revenue, the state could save money on
law enforcement costs, Ammiano believes. But he shelved the bill
until next year because it remains controversial in the Capitol,
according to his spokesman, Quintin Mecke.

“We’re certainly in full agreement with the governor,” Mecke said. “I
think it’s a great opportunity. I think he’s also being very
realistic about understanding sort of the overall context, not only
economically but otherwise.”

Schwarzenegger previously has shown a casual attitude toward
marijuana. He was filmed smoking a joint in the 1977 film, “Pumping
Iron.” And he told the British version of GQ in 2007, “That is not a
drug. It’s a leaf.” Spokesman Aaron McLear downplayed the governor’s
comment as a joke at the time.

Even if California were to legalize marijuana, the state would hit a
roadblock with the federal government, which prohibits its use.
Ammiano hopes for a shift in federal policy, but President Barack
Obama said in March he doesn’t think legalization is a good strategy.

Any study would find plenty of arguments, judging by responses
Tuesday.

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said he’s open to a study, but he
remains opposed to legalization. He warned that society could bear
significant burdens. He downplayed enforcement and incarceration
savings because he believes drug courts are already effective in
removing low-level offenders from the system.

“Studies have shown there is impairment with marijuana use,” DeVore
said. “People can get paranoid, can lose some of their initiative to
work, and we don’t live in some idealized libertarian society where
every person is responsible completely to himself. We live in a
society where the cost of your poor decisions are borne by your fellow
taxpayers.”

But Bruce Merkin of the Marijuana Policy Project said studies show
alcohol has worse effects on users than marijuana in terms of
addiction and long-term effects. His group believes marijuana should
be regulated and taxed just like alcoholic beverages.

“There are reams of scientific data that show marijuana is less
harmful than alcohol,” Merkin said. “Just look at the brain of an
alcoholic. In an autopsy, you wouldn’t need a microscope to see the
damage. Marijuana doesn’t do anything like that.”

Schwarzenegger said he would like to see results from Europe as part
of a study.

The Austrian parliament last year authorized cultivation of medical
marijuana. But Schwarzenegger talked with a police officer in his
hometown of Graz and found the liberalization was not fully supported,
McLear said.

“It could very well be that everyone is happy with that decision and
then we could move to that,” Schwarzenegger said. “If not, we
shouldn’t do it. But just because of raising revenues … we have to
be careful not to make mistakes at the same time.”

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Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor http://www.mapinc.org

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