Medical Marijuana

California Hail Marys

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The New York Times makes a wholly unconvincing case that the fiscal/governance meltdown in California will produce radical and positive new innovation, in the form of, uh, open primaries?

In approving the budget early Thursday, California lawmakers also agreed to place on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would do away with partisan primaries in favor of an open-primary system in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, would face off in a general election. […]

Some of this is not new. Californians have tried in the past to remake the primary system, as recently as 2004, and failed. But state and federal dynamics have shifted in just the last year in ways that could favor the initiative.

The dysfunctional budget process here, largely a byproduct of extreme partisan gridlock, brought California widespread shame when lawmakers delivered the latest budget in the state's history last fall and then, unable to agree on how to close the deficits they had created, went on to nearly bankrupt the state. Further, President Obama's brand of post-partisan, across-the-aisle politics has proved appealing to voters and been emulated, at least in rhetoric, among other politicians.

Objective! Anyway, for a real radical new proposal hatched by financial desperation, look at Baghdad by the Bay:

An assemblyman from San Francisco announced legislation Monday to…make California the first state in the nation to tax and regulate recreational marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. […]

"I know the jokes are going to be coming, but this is not a frivolous issue," said Ammiano, a Democrat elected in November after more than a dozen years as a San Francisco supervisor. "California always takes the lead—on gay marriage, the sanctuary movement, medical marijuana." […]

By some estimates, California's pot crop is a $14-billion industry, putting it above vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion). If so, that could mean upward of $1 billion in tax revenue for the state each year.

NEXT: The Amazing Stimulation of a $1 Check

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  1. Good for CA on the pot initiative. I doubt it will get anywhere, but at least people are starting to question the “War on Drugs” and its “logic”.

  2. California would be better off doing away with their gerrymandered districts that let democrat politicians choose democratic voters and let republican politicians choose republican voters. As things stand nearly every representative comes from an utterly safe district and has no incentive to seek political compromise during the budget process.

  3. California always takes the lead — on gay marriage, the sanctuary movement, medical marijuana…

    …home foreclosures, fleeing business, unemployment, $45 billion deficits…

  4. Further, President Obama’s brand of post-partisan, across-the-aisle politics has proved appealing to voters and been emulated, at least in rhetoric, among other politicians.

    Translation: Please give us a bailout! We love you!

  5. What? No whining about term limits?

    I can’t believe the NYT would pass up an opportunity to advocate for a permanent professional political class.

  6. Seriously, California, just go ahead and fall right into that ocean there. Seriously.

  7. “California always takes the lead — on gay marriage, the sanctuary movement, medical marijuana.”

    If by taking the lead you mean, temporarily liberalizing and then reversing course, then yes.

  8. California would be better off doing away with their gerrymandered districts that let democrat politicians choose democratic voters and let republican politicians choose republican voters.

    Quite right, Shannon Love. However, when the Governor proposed that in a ballot initiative, the Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate pointed to possible technical flaws in the initiative, and urged people to vote against it, promising that they’d bring up a fixed initiative later. Of course, that was a tremendous lie.

  9. The biggest problem with California’s budget has to do with the initiative process. Voters enact propositions that require funding without any source of revenue. So in addition to the normal budget items that are on the list, there’s a series of mandated spending that the legislature can’t get out of or cut.

  10. Seriously, California, just go ahead and fall right into that ocean there. Seriously.

    I will admit that I get sick and fucking tired of California’s constant bullshit. They pass medical MJ, but allow the DEA to walk all over them. They allow gay marriage, and then ban it. And they are going to shortly be asking the feds to pick my pocket to pay for their spending.

    So, yeah, yo, fuck California.

    (You can’t escape the meme you created Xeones! HA HA HA HA!)

  11. I saw in another story on the California marijuana bill, they are proposing a $50 per ounce tax. That’s a payoff, not a tax.

  12. The legalize and tax thing is great.

    But generally speaking I think we should just give California back to Mexico and be done with it.

  13. California can crumble in to the ocean AFTER I get me some Tom Anderson guitars. Not a moment before!

    Otherwise, California can rot in Hell.

  14. I saw in another story on the California marijuana bill, they are proposing a $50 per ounce tax. That’s a payoff, not a tax.

    At current prices (I guy I know told me) that’s about 25%. That same guy used to be in the business (retail not wholesale), he explains that the risk markup at each station of the supply chain is that much or more. A $50 an ounce tax on legaliized reefer would make the price drop.

    Cigarette taxes? Much greater than 100%.

    IOW, compared to the status quo, a $50 an ounce tax on legalized cannabis is a win/win.

  15. I saw in another story on the California marijuana bill, they are proposing a $50 per ounce tax. That’s a payoff, not a tax.

    That’s, what, $1.50 per gram. Which works out to just over a dollar a joint.

    Yeah, it’s high, but it’s in the ballpark of alcohol and cigarette taxes, when you consider relative quantities of use.

    And considering how fast the principal price would go down due to increased supply, that really isn’t so bad at all compared to what we currently have. Dollar signs are what will probably eventually push the pols over to legalization; that inevitably comes with a “tax the shit out of it” proviso which will only go down, much like alcohol, after a period of normalization.

  16. I will admit that I get sick and fucking tired of California’s constant bullshit. They pass medical MJ, but allow the DEA to walk all over them.

    Being from a state that can’t even get it’s first foot forward on that one, you don’t get to bitch. Call me when Connecticut pulls its head out of its ass.

  17. (You can’t escape the meme you created Xeones! HA HA HA HA!)

    It is my legacy unto this planet.

  18. Call me when Connecticut pulls its head out of its ass.

    Rell wanted to legalize medical, but said battling with the DEA was just too much. Yeah, it’s pussy, but at least she was honest. We may be the richest state, but we’re little.

  19. Yo, fuck the DEA.

  20. “California always takes the lead — on gay marriage…”

    No. That was MA.

  21. We may be the richest state, but we’re little.

    We’re poorer and littler, and yet somehow we pulled it off. What up wit that?

  22. Yeah, well, we legalized gay marriage. So there!

  23. I’ll be 110% in favor of it, but what happens when the DEA starts raiding convenience stores?

  24. First, without legalization a tax is pointless. I mean, if you are already breaking one law, why not a little tax evasion.

    Secondly, in what world are you living in where a tax would make the price go down? Enforcement of possesion is already a very low priority in California. Without federal legalization the risk margin won’t come down.

  25. Enforcement of possesion is already a very low priority in California. Without federal legalization the risk margin won’t come down.

    DEA can’t function without a heaping helping of cooperation from state and local cops. If CA stops busting growers and distributors and quits passing info to the feds, I’m guessing the price goes down.

  26. “Seriously, California, just go ahead and fall right into that ocean there. Seriously.”

    We’ll sink with California when it falls into the sea!!

  27. Medical mj is great for those that have a diagnosed illnes but mj also prevents many illnesses like alzheimers, shrinks cancerous tumers in lungs and brain and calms the schizophrenic and bi-polar symptoms. The main reason mj is not legalized is because the manufactured drugs will be put out of business if mj is legal…..and it should be legal.

  28. Makes perfect sense. Legalize it and tax the hell out of it. Call this the “Smoke Out of Debt Program” and tax it to the tune of $20.00 for a pack of joints = $1.00 a joint. Fair price for it being legal plus ~$17.00 of every pack sold goes to the state to balance the budget and help schools. GREAT IDEA!!!

  29. Fair price for it being legal plus ~$17.00 of every pack sold goes to the state to balance the budget and help schools.

    Tip of the iceberg. Dealers paying sales tax have to have records. Records lead to owing state and federal income tax. (Hello. Mr. Obama?) To reduce their tax bill they have to deduct what they pay the growers, shippers, and sales force, who then have to foot their own tax bill, but must earn minimum wage. Then here come the unions.

  30. I saw in another story on the California marijuana bill, they are proposing a $50 per ounce tax. That’s a payoff, not a tax.

    Counting production and distribution costs, plus a decent profit margin would get you to a total of about $100 a Z. I would take that over the current situation in a heartbeat.

  31. LarryA has a point. Can you really expect stoners to keep decent records? I’ve known a few dealers in my time, few of which could actually balance their checkbook. Oh, hang on, this is California we’re talking about. Nevermind. I guess it’s not that big a deal…

    Seriously though, while this bill is addressing an issue that really needs to be addressed, just making it legal is just the first of many, many steps.

  32. Fuck that. Give it a few years and growers will be getting raided by the IRS instead of the DEA.

    Than we will start to hear politicians calling for limits on THC, limits on quantities sold, limits on licenses issued. In a decade we will have a few government approved distributors with a de facto monopoly.

    How long before Monsanto or Altria get involved and try to patent White Widow or Purple Haze?

    If I lived in CA I would take my chances with the DEA.

  33. If the election system really is as above, I have no objection and it might be an improvement. It should not be understood as a primary followed by a general election, but as a general election in which partisan identification is optional and incorporating a runoff, and not as a means of party endorsement.

    It will probably reduce the importance of parties further, unless parties develop more discipline & solidarity, which is unlikely. That is, they won’t be able to keep non-endorsees from using their party name as candidates.

    Small parties may complain that their candidates are shut out of the “real” election, but that will be the case only as long as the runoff is viewed as the “general” election rather than as the 2nd stage of the general election, of which the 1st would not be a party primary.

  34. Secondly, in what world are you living in where a tax would make the price go down?

    A world where the price is currently set in a black market to reflect massive risk, which would go away if it was legalized/taxed.

  35. Nope, won’t never happen. What about stoned driving? Kids getting high? All the violence caused by drugs?

  36. I recently came to the “fuck it” conclusion, and have been depositing seeds whenever I take a nightly walk. Go out with a small handful of seeds (provided by roommates who smoke a lot of bud, but not the seeds), and toss randomly as I walk. Healthy exercise and civil disobedience combined into one fun activity! To keep people from getting screwed though, I try to refrain this activity to public land: parks, drainage basins, school system land, federal land, etc.

    I realize most of it isn’t going to grow, or if it does, it’ll be of a fairly low quality, but if enough gets going, I am hoping it’ll replace kudzu as the nuisance weed in the area.

    The funniest thing about this too, is that I don’t even smoke that often, but maybe, with enough people violating the law, it’ll get changed, much like the speed limit laws in the 90’s.

  37. Robert, I’m afraid you’re overanalyzing the open primary proposal. It’s simply a naked power play to lock down Democratic districts for Democrats and Republican districts for Republicans, and lock out third parties altogether. Nothing more.

  38. I saw an article about the open primary proposal the other day, which featured a quote from a high official of one of the two “major” parties expressing utter horror at the possibility that there could be an election involving candidates who were neither Rs or Ds.

    Terrifying!

  39. It’s all about the taxes. Smoking has declined, and along with it the tobacco tax revenue, so now they need new taxes to fund their anti-smoking propaganda. As a progressive Penninsula friend tells me, “we don’t have to legalize pot to tax it.” It will be “decriminalized” so it can be regulated and taxed.

  40. Last California election we had five parties on the ballot. Under open primary we will have two, and only two, candidates. This isn’t choice, this is one tiny step removed from the “democracy” the USSR used to brag about.

  41. “A world where the price is currently set in a black market to reflect massive risk, which would go away if it was legalized/taxed.”

    I would agree if it were federally legal, but do you really think that a major grower is going to go legit and pay taxes in California if that action is going to put them on the radar for the Feds? Once the State government knows who and where you are it is a simple matter for the Feds to just swoop in and bust you. The reason they need help from local law enforcement now is because LLE are the ones who are flying the helicopters and talking to snitches. Since marijuana enforcement is a low priority in many California municipalities, the risk is already much lower than it used to be. This would only increase exposure and therefore risk.

    The only way you are going to see major price reductions is if you are able to buy 100 acres and farm the stuff without the DEA burning your crop. There is a lot of overhead associated with growing marijuana covertly that won’t go away unless it is federally legal, such as climate control, lighting and the electricity to power those.

    Now, if this is what it takes for California to legalize marijuana, great. If California legalizes marijuana other states and eventaully the federal government might follow, which would of course be great. I just think that imagining a price decline of 75% as some have posited is wishful thinking.

  42. Since a budget requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature in California, I’m surprised they ever pass one at all.

    As for the DEA and their attacks on California dispensaries, many are pure DEA operations, with no local law enforcement involved.

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