Ammiano Bill to Tax and Regulate Marijuana Would Raise Over $1 Billion for State

Contact: Dale Gieringer, Director, Cal NORML (415) 563-5858

San Francisco, February 23, 2009 – At a press conference today, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF) announced the introduction of AB390, The Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act, a landmark bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol and tobacco.

The bill would save the state’s taxpayers over $1 billion, according to an economic analysis by California NORML, with additional economic benefits of $12 –18 billion.

“This bill is a winning proposition for California’s taxpayers,” says California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, a sponsor of the bill. “In this time of economic crisis, it makes no sense for California to be wasting money on marijuana prohibition, when we could be reaping tax benefits from a legal, regulated market instead.”

The bill would provide for licensed producers and distributors, who could sell to adults over 21. Producers would pay an excise tax of $50 per ounce, or about $1 per joint. Sales taxes would generate additional revenues, bringing total tax revenues to $1 billion. Additional economic benefits would be generated in the form of employment, business and payroll taxes and spin-off industries, like the wine industry, amounting to some $12 – $18 billion.

Last but not least, the bill would save the state $170 million in costs for arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of marijuana offenders. The result would be to eliminate such prohibition-related problems as black market dealers and smugglers, grow houses, and pirate gardeners on public lands.

The bill would not alter California’s medical marijuana law, which allows patients, caregivers and collectives to grow medicine for themselves.

Ammiano’s bill is the first of its kind since California outlawed cannabis in 1913. Only after being prohibited did marijuana become widely popular, eventually being enjoyed by millions of Californians. Due to soaring enforcement costs, the legislature decriminalized possession of small quantities in the Moscone Act of 1975, saving the state’s taxpayers $100 million per year.

However, production and distribution remained illegal, leading to continued prohibition-related enforcement costs. Last year, agents eradicated a record 5 million illegal plants, up more than tenfold in five years. Marijuana arrests jumped to 74,119 in 2007, their highest level since the Moscone Act. California has over 1,500 inmates in state prison for marijuana offenses, ten times as many as in 1980. Marijuana is reported to account for 61% of the illicit drug traffic from Mexico, where prohibition-related violence has killed over 6,800.

“Tom Ammiano deserves credit for recognizing that legal taxation and regulation is the only solution to California’s marijuana problem,” says Gieringer. “Marijuana users would happily pay taxes to buy it legally.” California NORML also thanks former Sen. John Vasconcellos for providing the original draft of this legislation.

Recent polls indicate that public support for legal marijuana is growing. A new Zogby poll found 44% of American voters support taxing and regulating marijuana, with support as high as 58% in western states.

Fact Sheet:
Marijuana in California

Number of marijuana users in California
3 million in the past year, including:
2 million in the past month, including:
500,000 – 600,000 daily users

Estimated California consumption
1 million pounds per year

Inmates in state prison for marijuana felonies
1,511 prisoners

Number of marijuana arrests, 2007
16,123 Felonies (sale & manufacture)
57,995 Misdemanors (possession)

Total marijuana arrests since 1970
2.25 million

Number of marijuana plants eradicated, 2008
5.2 million

Estimated value of California’s marijuana crop
$13.8 billion.


AB390 Stories:

Momentum builds for broad debate on legalizing pot
Associated Press, 6/16/2009

San Francisco Chronicle, May 11, 2009

Should Marijuana Be Legal?
by Prof. Michael Vitiello in the Sacramento Bee, April 5, 2009

KQED’s forum with Michael Krasny
Retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray debates police lobbyist John Lovell on AB390

Time for Public Policy Debate on Marijuana Laws
San Jose Mercury News
March 6, 2009

Regulation would take it out of criminals’ control
By Tom Ammiano
San Francisco Chronicle
March 3, 2009

Dan Walters: High time to legalize pot in California
Sacramento Bee; Sonoma Press Democrat

An easy, and realistic idea for smoking our deficit
The Daily Democrat

As We See It: Should pot be legalized?
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Everybody must get stoned
A new plan to legalize marijuana in California would create a $1 billion tokin’ tax and thousands of green jobs. Now that’s a stimulus plan!
By Katharine Mieszkowski,

Fox News’s Glenn Beck Tries to Slam NORML, Admits He Inhaled

CNN’s Lou Dobbs: “How about that for a fiscal miracle?”

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