Marijuana

Calif. Newspapers Warm to Pot Legalization, Thanks to Taxes and Regulations

Slightly more personal freedom is just a side effect.

|

Marijuana
Amihays / Dreamstime.com

When California considered legalizing recreational marijuana use back in 2010 with Proposition 19, the then-pioneering nature of the initiative rendered it pretty much radioactive to nearly every newspaper editorial board in the state.

I should know; I was one of only a handful of editorial writers to endorse Prop. 19, as editor of the tiny Desert Dispatch out in the Route 66 town of Barstow. Matt Welch wrote about the terrible logic behind the opposition (the proposition would create a confusing patchwork of city regulations and therefore that was somehow worse than putting people in jail).

This year things are different. Not only have states like Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana without turning into hellscapes of addiction and tragedy (no more than usual, anyway); but Proposition 64, on the ballot this November, gives the state-controlled tax and regulation systems that so many editorial boards in the state are thirsting for.

So now, newspapers who smacked down Prop. 19 back in 2010 are lining up to give Prop. 64 a thumb's up. The Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle are both officially endorsing the proposition. What pleased the Chronicle's board was the "blue-ribbon commission" brought together to hammer out the rules overseen by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and that cities will have the ability to levy their own taxes and ban outdoor cultivation. The Times as well is impressed that the new proposition introduces a regime that is so very, very regulated:

The measure would impose state taxes on commercial cultivation and sales that could eventually raise more than $1 billion a year. The measure would dedicate the new revenue to youth drug education, prevention and treatment programs, law enforcement programs to reduce driving under the influence, and environmental restoration of land damaged by illegal cannabis cultivation.

But there are some editorial boards who remain unconvinced. The rejection by the Sacramento Bee is particularly awful. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that the newspaper of the state's capitol is deeply offended at the idea that people outside the government might make lots of money off marijuana. The Bee's commentary is full-on nanny-state panic about exaggerated health concerns and misguided apples-and-oranges comparisons to tobacco and worries that advertising will "normalize" marijuana use the way it "normalized" alcohol use. So is the Bee opposed to legalized alcohol, too? Then there's this doozy of a section:

Backers contend Proposition 64 is a civil liberties issue. And police do use marijuana as probable cause to investigate and, sometimes, arrest people, even if those arrests, which disproportionately affect poor black and Latino Californians, rarely lead to convictions and amount to harassment at times.

But the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports not a single person is in state prison today because of marijuana possession. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession in 2010. After years of inaction, the Legislature last year approved detailed regulations for medical marijuana. No one with a medical marijuana card—and they're readily available from physicians who advertise 4/20 services—risks so much as a ticket.

Not a single person is in prison today, so what's the worry? That the police will have one less probable cause excuse to investigate and—in the Bee's own words—harass minorities isn't that big a deal because they don't end up in state prison! They are only "rarely" convicted! How privileged and sheltered a life do you have to live to look at this dynamic and think that everything's fine?

Thus far Ballotpedia notes five major newspapers endorsing and six newspapers opposing. But the pro side got a big boost today as Digital First Media, which owns a pack of daily newspapers in California, including the Orange County Register, The Riverside Press-Enterprise, and the Long Beach Press-Telegram, published an editorial in its California papers endorsing Prop. 64. The editorial notes:

For half a century, efforts to control and prevent marijuana use have relied upon the brute force of criminalization. It is increasingly apparent that marijuana prohibition, much like alcohol prohibition, has been a costly, failed experiment that flies in the face of growing demand for the substance.

It's now time we legalize recreational use of marijuana in California.

Personal use of marijuana is victimless. It is less harmful to those who use it than alcohol or tobacco, both of which are already legal. And arresting and incarcerating people for possession of marijuana is a poor use of law enforcement resources and space in our already overcrowded jails.

There is one voice of opposition to Proposition 64 that might come as a surprise to Reason readers: the Libertarian Party of California. Yes, that's right. The party's Executive Committee went through all the initiatives on the ballot this fall and voted whether to support or oppose. They decided to oppose Prop. 64. The party notes on its site, "While the Libertarian Party has been a strong supporter of ending marijuana prohibition for over 40 years, this proposition does more harm than good, damaging medical availability, and creating additional criminal offenses and regulations." I've reached out to see if I can get a better sense of what sort of actual harms they believe will come when compared to the laws as they stand today.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

28 responses to “Calif. Newspapers Warm to Pot Legalization, Thanks to Taxes and Regulations

  1. California Livin’ – As much freedom as can be safely regulated.

  2. Not only have states like Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana without turning into hellscapes of addiction and tragedy…

    The Feds really fucked up letting these places take our precious country down this slippery slope. Now you have every local and state politician hungry for new revenue streams salivating at the idea of destroying our nation’s youth with the marijuana.

    1. Gambling is evil too, except for state-run lotteries.
      Tax revenue streams are the driver for pot legalization.

      1. Speaking of illegal things and cronyism, why can’t the injuns use some of their sweet gambling proceeds to grease the skids for legalizing drugs and hookers too? I’d bus it up to foxwoods every weekend to hang at some old western type casino with hookers upstairs.

      2. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!
        It’s not legalization as in decriminalization. Its licensing to gain revenue. Government is THE most ridiculous CORPORATION ever. Monopoly?

  3. I haven’t delved into the California prop’s specifics but if it’s anything like the market in Colorado then the black market prices will easily be a 50-75% discount from the prevailing retail price. I have to wonder who is going pay this tax as there is huge an competitive network of “medical” shops already in existence that might have to close under the additional burden. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who wants to smoke pot in this state isn’t already doing so. Maybe I’m wrong.

    1. ” It’s hard to imagine that anyone who wants to smoke pot in this state isn’t already doing so. ”
      Tourists? Especially out-of-state ones, and foreigners.
      Colorado certainly must be benefitting by being the easternmost legal state for recreational usage.
      Originally they had a lower limit on the quantity out-of-state residents could buy, but now they have removed that restriction. Or so I read on the internet somewhere.
      Cha-ching for state coffers

      1. You are correct!

        http://www.thecannabist.co/201…..eed/56244/

      2. I cold petitioned people on the street for a pot hookup last time I was in Cali. 4 swings and missed followed by a sweet hook up from radical dude. Walked right into the shop with his card and came out true to his word, gave him a $20 tip.

      3. I think it was a quarter ounce limit for out of state in Colorado, a few months back, and an ounce limit for residents — but you could make cash transactions, so you could go to every store around and buy a quarter ounce at each one, if you really wanted to load up.

    2. Its not just the pot smoker’s freedom here. Its also the pot business’s freedom.

      The more business we can divert from the black market, the less violence the pot trade will encompass, and the less funding will go to criminal enterprises.

      I think the typical pattern is that medpot stays a thing, but basically just gets a sales tax break.

      1. “less funding will go to criminal enterprises.”

        But enough about the taxes.

    3. I haven’t delved into the California prop’s specifics but if it’s anything like the market in Colorado then the black market prices will easily be a 50-75% discount from the prevailing retail price.

      Really? Cause I bought a gram of weed in Denver for $10. Is the black market price down to the $2.50 to $5 per gram range?

      1. I think there’s a floor around 5-7 dollars per gram if you are talking about premium quality. Quality is a huge push and low quality marijuana is practically worthless, like listerine in the alcohol market.

  4. How would marijuana be taxed?
    Proposition 64 would create two new excise taxes on marijuana. One would be a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales and cultivation. The second would be a 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana. Taxes would be adjusted for inflation starting in 2020.[1]

    Local governments would be authorized to levy taxes on marijuana as well.

    That doesn’t seem too onerous but that last line scares me. There’s a fuckton of money in this and I seriously question which way I should vote. My high school self would be utterly dismayed that this is even debatable but here I am 15 years later.

    1. That doesn’t seem too onerous but that last line scares me.

      I wouldn’t worry too much. If some fucknozzle taxes pot at 100%, they will see businesses open just past the city limits.

    2. Look at it this way: Prop 64 won’t make the black market more expensive, it will probably make it cheaper and smaller, and the legal market will be open for even better abuse than the current medical pot market.

  5. I have now made an informed choice to vote yes on this just because it’s not worse than the current scenario and has the potential to be better. That and the “No on 64” arguments are just plain dumb. I seriously doubt this prop can be stopped, but we shall see.

    1. You vote for it because it’s the only thing going, even if the taxes and regulation keep the black market viable.

    2. vote yes on this just because it’s not worse than the current scenario and has the potential to be better

      ^ This.

      Some things are likely to be worse, but as Scott says, they have to be worse than jail and a permanent criminal record in order to be “worse worse.”

    3. Sorry to learn that you live in California.

  6. It’s sad that news papers, and media in general so fetishize power. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Because prop 19 doesn’t have dog whistles for the total state, no one in media would consider it viable.

    Oh,

    “I should know; I was one of only a handful of editorial writers to endorse Prop. 19 as editor of the tiny Desert Dispatch out in the Route 66 town of Barstow. ”

    That’s why you’re so damned good, Scott. You starated small and obscure, the way journalists should, where you learn your trade. You didn’t get plopped into a chair at Vox, earning $100,000 a year covering the middle east.

    1. It’s Shackelford. Of course he’s great!

      1. King of alt-text. Hail to the king, baby!

        1. I don’t know what would make me happier; Shackford in charge of links, or Fist always coming in a close second.

          1. I’ve decided, the schadenfruede of Fist coming in second is better. Mostly because I like to bitch about lack of alt-text.
            (For the record, I like you Fist, I just want access to your time machine.)

  7. The democrat socialists don’t want to re-legalize marijuana because it’s just.

    Oh no, they want a central committee to tax and regulate marijuana for the benefit of the centralized socialist state.

  8. The LA Times “endorsement” of Prop 64 is a huge lie. – For decades, they have constantly spewed lies and propaganda about marijuana and marijuana consumers.

    When I saw their official endorsement of Prop 64, I thought, “Thank, God, they have finally come to their senses!

    But no. – They continue lying and demonizing marijuana and marijuana consumers. – Apparently their bogus “endorsement” was just a cover for when Prop 64 passes. – They can say, “We supported legalization.”

    Not so fast, LA Times. – We know what you’ve done and we have LONG memories!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.