California's Bill to Legalize and Tax Pot: Not All It Ought To Be


California admits: it's awash in 500 tons of pot, and could make nearly a billion and a half a year if it just wised up and legalized it. In reaction to a proposed bill currently in committee in the state assembly:

The State Board of Equalization report estimates marijuana retail sales would bring $990 million from a $50-per-ounce fee and $392 million in sales taxes……

The Equalization Board used law enforcement and academic studies to calculate that about 16 million ounces — or 500 tons — of marijuana are consumed in California each year.

Marijuana use would likely increase by about 30 percent once the law took effect because legalization would lead to falling prices, the board said……

Advocates and opponents do agree that California is by far the country's top pot-producing state. Last year law enforcement agencies in California seized nearly 5.3 million plants.

While I like the generic idea of the bill, it has provisions that are simply idiotic, and do show that the radical Szaszian anti-medicalization libertarians have a good point about the slippery slope of framing drug policy reform in any way other than, hey, we have a right to eat and smoke whatever we want as long as we aren't directly harming someone else:

The legislation requires all revenue generated by the $50-per-ounce fee to be used for drug education and rehabilitation programs. The state's 9 percent sales tax would be applied to retail sales, while the fee would likely be charged at the wholesale level and built into the retail price.

Ca-monn, guys, if you are selling this as a measure of fiscal sanity, let go of the "education and rehabilitation" bullshit. There are more important government expenditures than that, for all those who believe in government expenditures.

The bill as currently written also had meaningless and pointless built right into it because "The way the bill is written, the state could not begin collecting taxes until the federal government legalizes marijuana." But bill author Tom Ammiano says he's planning to amend that part.

Tim Castleman at Indybay.org reads the full bill of Ammiano's A.B. 390 and doesn't like what he sees. Part of his bill of indictment:

Subsection (b) says that 18,19 and 20 year olds are not adults and makes them into a whole new batch of criminals if they have anything at all to do with cannabis….

Next, subsection (d) funds drug war propaganda and treatment centers with a "substantial fee" on the "legal sale" of marijuana. To clarify what "legal sale" may mean subsection (e) seeks to "impose a set of regulations and laws concerning marijuana comparable to those imposed on alcohol." This means licenses, background checks and restrictions on a plant that has never killed anyone, unlike alcohol….

The magnitude of damage this bill could do only begins to come into focus deep into the language, but a hint is seen in subsection (f) "To impose substantial fines for violations of the noncommercial regulations and laws concerning marijuana, which will be applicable until and after commercial marijuana is available by virtue of future changes in federal law." So there you have it—marijuana is even more illegal than it was, unless obtained from a state licensed retailer, who must get it from a state licensed wholesaler, who must get it from a state licensed producer……

Section 5 seems to further extend government control and tax authority to include every possible market segment from bongs to baggies to growing supplies and equipment…..

Section 12 further codifies the restrictions on every market possibly related to cannabis. In short, everything is illegal, unless the state grants an applicant permission, based on fees, a background check and proof of financial resources to sufficient satisfy their requirements for security etc…..

Section 14 clarifies that every asset is subject to forfeiture for violation of any of these laws. This devastating practice is often used in place of legal proceedings to persecute individuals and prevent them from fighting back.

Section 15 authorizes law enforcement officials to destroy any amount of a "suspected controlled substance" over 10 pounds. Later, when it is time to return the victims property, much of it is likely to have been destroyed by hostile government agents….

The text of the bill.

Nick Gillespie makes the libertarian case for legalizing and taxing the currently illegal in the New York Times. Matt Welch explains that California could totally use the money.