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California NORML Release Feb 23, 2009


San Francisco, Feb. 23 – Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF) announced the introduction of a landmark bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol and tobacco at a press conference today.

“With the state in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the move towards regulating and taxing marijuana is simply common sense,” said Ammiano. “This legislation would generate much needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes.”

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. background/CA_legalization2.html.

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.

“California has the opportunity to be the first state in the nation to enact a smart, responsible public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana,” said Ammiano. His 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 of California NORML, a sponsor of the bill. “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.

California NORML is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to reforming California’s marijuana laws. Founded in 1972, California NORML is the only state organization devoted specifically to marijuana reform. Our mission is to establish the right of adults to use cannabis legally for recreational as well as medical purposes.