Speaking at a landmark press conference today, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced comprehensive legislation to tax and regulate the commercial production and sale of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol.
“With the state in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the move towards regulating and taxing marijuana is simply common sense. 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”, Assemblyman Ammiano said. “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.”
The proposal is the first marijuana legalization bill ever introduced in California.
“It’s time for California taxpayers to stop wasting money trying to enforce marijuana prohibition, and to realize the tax benefits from a legal, regulated market instead,” said Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, a sponsor of the bill.
As introduced, Ammiano’s measure would allow for the licensed production and sale of cannabis to consumers age 21 and over. Licensed cultivators would pay an excise tax of $50 per ounce of cannabis. In addition, the proposal would impose a sales tax on commercial sales. (Ammiano’s proposal would not affect the state’s medical marijuana law, allowing patients and caregivers to grow their own medicine.)
If enacted, the measure would raise over $1 billion per year in state revenue, according to an economic analysis by California NORML, available online here.
Ammiano’s bill comes at a time of growing public support for legalizing marijuana. A recent Zogby poll reported that nearly six in ten west coast voters support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.
Faced with a $40 billion budget deficit, other public officials have joined in endorsing Ammiano’s bill, including San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessy and Betty Yee, a member of the State Board of Equalization, which oversees collection of sales taxes.
Currently, tens of millions of dollars are paid annually in state and local taxes by licensed distributors of medical marijuana. However, these sales only represent a fraction of the overall statewide marijuana market. “The millions of dollars raised each year on the sales of medicinal cannabis is only the tip of the iceberg,” Gieringer said. “Kudos to Assemblyman Ammiano for proposing a path-breaking bill that would benefit our economy, safety and freedom by making marijuana a winning proposition for California.”