New CA pot analysis sees savings, raises questions

marijuana-leafAccording to one respected source in Sacramento, pot is good for California’s bottom line.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office, which produces nonpartisan studies of ballot initiatives, has unveiled a new report considering the fiscal impact of marijuana decriminalization in the Golden State. Although partly mixed, its conclusion offered the possibility of a fresh line of argument in favor of freer pot laws.

“The report says California could add millions of dollars to state coffers if it legalized marijuana by reducing the number of marijuana offenders in prisons and jails, reducing probation supervision costs, reducing criminal court cases, and increased sales-tax revenue,” according to CBS Sacramento.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office did warn, however, that legalization would likely incur substantial trade-offs  that were harder to quantify or predict. The study, CBS noted, “could bring unexpected costs, with a potential increase in state-funded rehabilitation programs.”

Spiking support

The findings came at a potentially significant time in the run-up to activists’ push for statewide legalization in 2016. Public opinion has made a sustained shift toward support for such a measure, as the most recent round of polling from the Public Policy Institute of California underscored. “A record-high 54 percent of residents favor legalizing marijuana, while 44 percent are opposed,” PPIC reported.

The PPIC results proved notable for several reasons. Traditionally, restricting polling to likely voters results in a more conservative outlook. But in this case, the situation was reversed. “Among California likely voters, 56 percent favor legalization and 41 percent are opposed,” PPIC observed.

Although Republicans tend to oppose looser drug laws more than Democrats, California Democrats’ traditional strength among minority voters has not translated directly into more substantial support among those groups for marijuana legalization. “A majority of whites (60 percent) favor legalization,” said PPIC, “while a similar proportion of Latinos (60 percent) oppose it.”

Economic arguments

The legislative analyst’s report also promised to feed into broader economic arguments now being made by legal marijuana advocates. Already, some 100,000 California residents have found work in the medical marijuana industry, California Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Nate Bradley told ABC Sacramento.

Reflecting a growing perception that the industry was here to stay, a new piece of legislation designed to bring order to the industry has attracted bipartisan support — with police and labor lining up behind the bill. “Assembly Bill 266 would create what’s called a dual-licensure system, with cannabis entrepreneurs needing to secure permits both from local authorities and from one of a few state agencies,” according to the Sacramento Bee. “The Department of Public Health would oversee testing, the Department of Food and Agriculture would deal with cultivation and the Board of Equalization would handle sales and transportation — all under the auspices of a new Governor’s Office of Marijuana Regulation.”

At the same time, it would mandate that businesses employing 20 or more persons must establish a so-called “labor peace agreement,” while allowing municipal officials some discretion in curbing medical pot.

For pot advocates, the sudden alignment of interest groups indicated an upcoming boom time for the marijuana business. Activists such as Bradley haven’t hesitated to build that prediction into their case for a legalization vote. “With recreational marijuana expected to go on the ballot in 2016, the industry is primed for rapid expansion,” ABC Sacramento continued. “Bradley said the market could produce as many as 1 million jobs in eight years.”

“As the cannabis market matures, it’s beginning to see more innovation, creating jobs that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Nestdrop, a Los Angeles-based startup, has a smartphone app facilitating medical marijuana orders and deliveries between patients and dispensaries. Since its launch in late April, the company has gained roughly 30,000 users in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Stockton and Pasadena, as well as areas like Orange County.”

As pro-pot forces have increased their legitimacy, Californians have also grown more skeptical toward excessive policing of marijuana businesses. Most recently, Santa Ana cops who raided an allegedly unlicensed dispensary were caught on videotape ridiculing a disabled volunteer working at the shop. One officer could be seen eating something from a countertop — alleged by the volunteer’s lawyer to be a marijuana edible.


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  1. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 15 June, 2015, 08:59

    While the arguments for savings on criminal prosecutions and incarceration are quite valid, the claim of TAX revenues is usually vastly overblown. If the tax is “too high,” people will grow their own, and a new criminal class will be formed — tax evaders who casually sell their in-house product to friends.

    I STRONGLY favor pot legalization (though I personally don’t want to be around “groovy” people under the influence). Get the government out of the oppressive pot regulation (treat pot like alcohol) and “sin tax” business (just a normal sales tax should apply). Both savings and freedom will benefit.

    Reply this comment
  2. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 15 June, 2015, 10:43

    I have a koan about pot, alcohol and drugs in general: They should be totally legal and no one should do them.

    Marijuana especially has been used for decades as a multi-tool by the cops. They know that approximately 20-30 % of any people pulled over will have small quantities of the stuff. And how many lives have been destroyed with felony convictions for small amounts of weed? Legalizing weed contributes to the defanging of our brutal police state.

    Reply this comment
  3. Scott Chipman
    Scott Chipman 15 June, 2015, 12:57

    “could bring unexpected costs”. We spend about 120 billion dollars a year on the negative impacts of binge drinking and only take in about $9 billion in tax revenues. How many kid’s futures are we going to compromise for tax revenues. This is a faustian bargain. Legalization isn’t working in Colorado and will be even worse for CA. As Jerry Brown said, “There is a limit to how many people can be stoned and still have a great state or country.” We’ve already gone beyond that limit.

    Reply this comment
  4. Bain Dramage
    Bain Dramage 15 June, 2015, 19:25

    Pot use is largely a victimless crime that fills prisons and jails, empowers foreign cartels and saps time and money from more important law enforcement priorities.

    That said, legalization needs to address the following:

    1. Reasonable possession limits.

    2. Legalized free transfers from one person to another (gifting).

    3. The inalienable right to grow a certain number of plants without interference or regulations from local jurisdictions (Counties and Cities cannot ban or restrict a property owner’s or renter’s right to grow a certain number of plants for personal use).

    4. Workplace safeguards covering both employer and employee (you can be fired for showing up for work under the influence, but you cannot be fired on Monday for smoking a joint Saturday night).

    5. Medically reasonable DUI testing that do NOT test for metabolites, but rather for THC levels in the blood (as of today blood tests for THC levels are the only accurate measure – but this will change).

    6. A ceiling on taxes (both state and local) so that state and local authorities cannot impose taxes that effectively create or further enrich the black market.

    7. Medical cannabis should be sold tax-free to those who possess a physician recommendation.

    8. State and local authorities cannot impose rules for dispensaries that are more prohibitive than those in place for the sale of alcohol. Zoning ordinances for cannabis sales should parallel those for alcohol sales.

    9. The rules governing the consumption of cannabis cannot be more restrictive than the rules governing the consumption of alcohol. If it is legal to consume alcohol at a certain place/time then it shall be concurrently legal to consume cannabis at the same place/time.

    10. A provision that requires law enforcement to compensate those who have had cannabis confiscated but who have NOT been convicted of a cannabis-related crime as a result of that confiscation. Translation: If the cops take your cannabis but that confiscation does not result in a conviction – you get compensated (in cash) full-value street price for the cannabis.

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