FOLLOW THE MONEY: THE IMPACT OF LEGALIZED POT
DrugSense FOCUS Alert #455 – Thursday, September 23rd, 2010
Today the Capitol Weekly “The newspaper of California government and
politics” printed the article below as well as another titled
Minorities Have Growing Visibility in Proposition Campaigns
Issues raised in the article below deserve consideration.
In a well written analysis titled Prop 19 Would Help — Not Hurt —
Medical Marijuana Patients today David Borden, Executive Director,
StoptheDrugWar.org addressed that issue
The argument of a vocal minority of California’s medicinal marijuana
patients is that their medicine should not be taxed. An
understandable position thought it has nothing to do with Proposition
19. Marijuana currently sells for over $300 an ounce in California –
higher for the best medicinal grades in most dispensaries. If, as
the experts agree, the price of marijuana falls to under $100 an
ounce if Proposition 19 passes then there is room for taxes of a
lower priced product. If some locations tax the product at
unreasonable rates consumers will shop elsewhere.
Also worth considering is the wording of the actual proposition at
http://yeson19.com/node/6 – which appears to not have been read by
many opponents. Note Section 5: Amendment:
Pursuant to Article 2, section 10(c) of the California Constitution,
this Act may be amended either by a subsequent measure submitted to a
vote of the People at a statewide election; or by statute validly
passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, but only to
further the purposes of the Act. Such permitted amendments include
but are not limited to:
(a) Amendments to the limitations in section 11300, which limitations
are minimum thresholds and the Legislature may adopt less restrictive
(b) Statutes and authorize regulations to further the purposes of the
Act to establish a statewide regulatory system for a commercial
cannabis industry that addresses some or all of the items referenced
in Sections 11301 and 11302.
(c) Laws to authorize the production of hemp or non-active cannabis
for horticultural and industrial purposes.
This section, unusual in California initiatives, will allow the
legislature to improve Proposition 19 if it should pass to fix any
flaws, perceived or real, in the law. Assemblyman Ammiano, as the
article below states, has filed a bill already you may read – though
it is difficult to follow as it references multiple sections of the
California laws – at http://drugsense.org/url/7qznJE9I
Your letters to the editor are important, as we stated at this alert
http://www.mapinc.org/alert/0453.html Newspaper clippings about
California’s Proposition 19 are MAP posted at http://www.mapinc.org/find?272
If you are not yet registered to vote, please do so. You may use the
Rock the Vote system linked from http://drugsense.org/url/JoudT0rb
for any state.
Source: Capitol Weekly (Sacramento, CA)
Copyright: 2010 Capitol Weekly Group
Author: Jennifer Chaussee
FOLLOW THE MONEY: THE IMPACT OF LEGALIZED POT
The arguments surrounding the controversial measure to legalize and
tax the recreational use of marijuana have relied at least in part on
Aside from the ideological and political differences that pit the
measure’s supporters against its opposition, neither side knows for
sure how the initiative will affect California’s economy.
Proponents of the Nov. 2 ballot initiative, Proposition 19, say
decriminalizing the recreational use of marijuana would allow the
state to rake in some much-needed cash by taxing sales of the herb.
The Yes on 19 campaign stated that the Board of Equalization
estimated the measure would bring in an additional $1.4 billion in
But that estimate came from an analysis of a different piece of
cannabis legalization legislation authored by Assemblyman Tom
Ammiano, D- San Francisco. That bill seeks a $50-per-ounce taxation
rate on marijuana sales. And the debate over the dollar impact is
almost as fierce as the debate over the initiative.
The literature of Proposition 19 does not include any such tax. In
fact, the measure itself does not require local governments to impose
a set tax on the sale of marijuana nor does it require local
governments to license marijuana distributors.
Nate Bradley, a member of a pro-Proposition 19 group Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition and a former Sutter County Deputy Sheriff, said
the measure is written this way to gradually attract local
governments to the economic and social benefits of legalizing and
Bradley said focus group studies revealed more people were
comfortable with legalizing marijuana under the condition that their
local governments were able to participate voluntarily. “One county
will start (selling marijuana) and others will follow,” said Bradley.
Board of Equalization spokeswoman Anita Gore said that without a set
taxation rate to work with, estimating the potential fiscal effects
of Proposition 19 is almost impossible. There is no telling, said
Gore, what counties will participate in the sale or taxation of
marijuana. Out of those counties that would embrace the new law, it
is equally unclear how they will choose to tax recreational cannabis.
The BOE released an analysis of Proposition 19 just recently but the
report did not include a conclusive fiscal analysis of the initiative.
“The legalization policy proposed by this measure complicates the
revenue estimation task considerably,” read the BOE’s fiscal analysis
of Proposition 19.
The board staff said it does “not know which local jurisdictions will
choose to authorize the sale of marijuana products… (and) is not
able to create estimates of marijuana consumption and price at the
The report also noted that the tax experts on the BOE staff were not
able to estimate the impact that legalization, local regulation, and
taxation will have on the consumption and price for those
jurisdictions that choose to authorize sales.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Legislature’s nonpartisan
fiscal adviser, faced similar challenges in its report on Proposition
19 but was able to provide a rough revenue estimate. “We estimate
that the state and local governments could eventually collect
hundreds of millions of dollars annually in additional revenues.” But
even the LAO’s estimate was trimmed by disclaimer.
“The revenue and expenditure impacts of this measure are subject to
significant uncertainty…It is unknown how many local governments
would choose to license establishments that would grow or sell
marijuana or impose an excise tax on such sales.”
A study by the nonprofit research group RAND echoed the uncertainty.
“There is considerable uncertainty about the impact of legalizing
marijuana in California in public budgets.”
But the RAND report also noted that “the pretax retail price of
marijuana will substantially decline, likely by more than 80 percent.
The price the consumers face will depend heavily on taxes, the
structure of the regulatory regime, and how taxes and regulations are
The No on 19 campaign has sharply criticized the measure for being
vague and sloppy in its wording, referring to it as “a jumbled legal
Spokesman Roger Salazar said, “The revenue is not going to be
anywhere near what the proponents claim. There is nothing in the
initiative that lays out what the taxes should be on marijuana if
Proposition 19 passes. It wouldn’t be worth the headache.”
Assemblyman Ammiano introduced a follow up bill Tuesday that would
create the Marijuana Control and Regulation Act of 2010, to take
effect after the passage of Proposition 19. The objectives of the act
include raising funds and trying to “discourage substance abuse by
the imposition of a substantial fee on the legal sale of marijuana,
the proceeds of which will support drug education and awareness programs.”
A part of those funds will come from charging a licensing fee to
“The fee for the license shall be set at an amount that will
reasonably cover the costs of ensuring compliance with the
regulations to be issued, but may not exceed five thousand dollars
($5,000) for an initial application, or two thousand five hundred
dollars ($2,500) per year for each annual renewal.”
The act also specifies that no person can legally sell marijuana or
any of its derivatives without proper licensing.
Apart from the concerns over how much revenue the measure may or may
not provide to the government through taxation, a group of medical
marijuana distributors have raised concerns that Proposition 19
threatens the rights of patients who rely on cannabis prescriptions
by jeopardizing medical marijuana distribution businesses.
The newly formed group known as the California Cannabis Association
held a press release on the West Steps of the Capitol on Tuesday to
announce their opposition to Proposition 19.
CCA President George Mull said the measure does not protect medicinal
marijuana patients because it allows counties to decide whether or
not they want to allow for the legal sale of marijuana within their
jurisdictions, jeopardizing the rights of medicinal marijuana
businesses to distribute the drug.
Mull and other CCA members, to include Lanette Davies, whose family
owns the explosively successful Canna Care medical marijuana
distributor, also said that Proposition 19 could impose unfair taxes
onto licensed patients.
Ammiano’s proposed Marijuana Control and Regulation Act responds to
this concern by stating the act will. “Exclude medical marijuana from
the fees and regulations imposed by this act.”
Yes on 19 campaign spokesman Dan Newman said Proposition 19 “will not
change or affect current medical cannabis laws or protections offered
to qualified patients. Patients will still be able to possess what is
needed for medical use, and patients, caregivers and medical cannabis
collectives and cooperatives will retain all existing rights.”
Despite concerns from the medical marijuana industry and a collection
of law enforcement groups that have spoken out in opposition to
Proposition 19, the LAO’s report on the measure said it could lead to
a reduction in law enforcement costs for local governments.
“The measure could result in savings to the state and local
governments by reducing the number of marijuana offenders
incarcerated in state prisons and county jails, as well as the number
placed under county probation or state parole supervision.”
Several local Democratic Party organizations agree.
“California should stop arresting thousands of non-violent cannabis
consumers, freeing up police resources and saving millions of dollars
each year, which could be used for apprehending truly dangerous
criminals and keeping them locked up, and for other essential state
needs that lack funding,” read a press release from the Alameda
County Democratic Party on its announced support of Proposition 19.
According to a press release from the Yes on 19 campaign, Democratic
Parties in L.A., Butte, Madera, Modoc, Monterey, Orange, Placer, San
Francisco, Siskiyou, and Sonoma County have endorsed the measure.
Bradley said one of the greatest costs to law enforcement is the cost
of writing tickets to citizens charged with carrying less than an
ounce of marijuana.
“The ticket is a misdemeanor charge with a maximum fine of $100 but
it costs the county $1,000 to process…If we just stopped writing
those tickets we’d save an instant $60 million a year.”
Bradley referred to the current “drug war” as “a huge waste of money
for local government” and said Proposition 19 would end that waste by
freeing up unnecessary bureaucracy in the conviction process of
“It is unclear whether the fiscal benefits of Proposition 19 would be
massive, immense, or merely substantial and significant, but there is
no question that Prop 19 would generate billions of dollars,” said
Dan Newman, spokesman for the Yes on 19 campaign.
Apart from potential savings in local law enforcement, marijuana and
its distributors would be subject to at least the same sales and
business taxes as other taxable products in California. With sales
and business tax alone, the initiative is likely to bring in at least
some revenue to local governments. The evasive question is simply
“how much?” and, as voiced by the No on 19 campaign, would it be
worth “the headache?”