Can Marijuana Rescue the Cali Economy?

by Chris Sturr | March 13, 2009

From Time.com (the website of Time magazine). There is a “related” link to an article entitled: “The Doctor’s View: Why I’m Not Against, Like, Oh Wow Man, Pot.” Should we be offended by the stereotype of people who enjoy MJ? Or maybe that’s just how doctors talk in Cali.

By Alison Stateman | Los Angeles | Friday, Mar. 13, 2009

Could marijuana be the answer to the economic misery facing California? Democratic state assemblyman Tom Ammiano thinks so. Ammiano introduced legislation last month that would legalize pot and allow the state to regulate and tax its sale — a move that could mean billions of dollars for the cash-strapped state. Pot is, after all, California’s biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year in sales, dwarfing the state’s second largest agricultural commodity — milk and cream — which brings in $7.3 billion a year, according to the most recent USDA statistics. The state’s tax collectors estimate the bill would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in much needed revenue, offsetting some of the billions of dollars in service cuts and spending reductions outlined in the recently approved state budget.

“The state of California is in a very, very precipitous economic plight. It’s in the toilet,” says Ammiano. “It looks very, very bleak, with layoffs and foreclosures, and schools closing or trying to operate four days a week. We have one of the highest rates of unemployment we’ve ever had. With any revenue ideas, people say you have to think outside the box, you have to be creative, and I feel that the issue of the decriminalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana fits that bill. It’s not new, the idea has been around, and the political will may in fact be there to make something happen.”

Ammiano may be right. A few days after he introduced the bill, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that states should be able to make their own rules for medical marijuana and that federal raids on pot dispensaries in California would cease. The move signaled a softening of the hard-line approach to medicinal pot use previous Administrations have taken. The nomination of Gil Kerlikowske as the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy may also signal a softer federal line on marijuana. If he is confirmed as the so-called drug czar, Kerlikowske will take with him experience as police chief of Seattle, where he made it clear that going after people for possessing marijuana was not a priority for his force.

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