California Marijuana Legalization Initiative

The California Marijuana Legalization Initiative qualified for the November ballot on March 24, 2010 and proposes the regulation and taxation of legal, recreational marijuana. Proponents of the measure have suggested that legalization would create a stable source of revenue for a state with a troubled economy. Some estimates say the crop is worth $14 billion a year and that California could generate $1.3 billion in taxes if it is made legal, according to a study done by the Board of Equalization. Since the use of recreational pot is currently illegal, taxes cannot be imposed upon it. Note that the initiative is not proposing a statewide tax; rather, taxation would be left to local governments. The ballot’s title is: "Changes California Law to Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed.” Its description is as follows:

“Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Maintains current prohibitions against driving while impaired. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Savings of up to several tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments on the costs of incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Unknown but potentially major tax, fee, and benefit assessment revenues to state and local government related to the production and sale of marijuana products. (09-0024.)”

Supporters: The main proponent of the initiative is Richard Lee, who primarily funded the campaign to place the measure on the November ballot. The campaign group that is pushing for its passage is known as “Tax Cannabis 2010,” which was started by Lee. Other supporters include the Marijuana Policy Project and State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. In recent months, as covered on’s blog, police groups such as the National Black Police Association and the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) organization have come out in support of the measure, demonstrating that not all law enforcement groups are in opposition to the initiative. For more information on LEAP, please see here. Supporters point out that the state and local governments would greatly benefit from the revenue that would be created by sales tax and other fees on marijuana if it was made legal. And the state would benefit from additional income tax revenue.

Opponents: Major Attorney General Candidates, such as Kamala Harris, have come out against the initiative. In addition, groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association, Coalition for a Drug-Free California, California Narcotics Officers Association, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have come out against the proposed initiative.

Opponents have argued that marijuana is a harmful substance that should be kept illegal and that if it is made more available, there will be too many negative consequences. Opponents also suggest it would only bring the state a very modest amount of additional revenue, so it is not worth the public costs.

You can read the read the letter submitted to the Attorney General requesting an official ballot title and summary here.

Additional links are available here:

Tax Cannabis 2010

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