Why Pot Could be State's New Cash Crop

Former SF supervisor wants public to cash in on $13.8 billion pot crop

By Jackson West
|  Monday, Mar 2, 2009  |  Updated 12:18 PM PDT
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Why Pot Could be State's New Cash Crop

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Besides raising revenue, marijuana decriminalization would save the state in enforcement and incarceration costs.

Tom Ammiano wants to effectively legalize-- and tax -- California's trade in cannabis.

AB 390 "would remove all penalties in California law on cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, or use of marijuana, natural THC, or paraphernalia for persons over the age of 21," Ammiano's press secretary Quintin Mecke told the San Francisco Weekly.

Ammiano, a rookie state legislator and former San Francisco supervisor, may have a unique opportunity to win support for the bill in the wake of the state's budget debacle.

"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," he said.

Mecke suggested taxes on the trade could amount to $1 billion according to advocates.

And I'd bet that's a conservative estimate.

"With the state in the midst of an historic economic crisis, the  move towards regulating and taxing marijuana is simply common sense," Ammiano  said at a morning news conference at the state building on Golden Gate Avenue  in San Francisco.

Estimates value the state's crop of marijuana at $13.8 billion, double that of the vegetable and grape markets combined. Nationwide, it may be the fourth largest cash crop, behind corn, soy and hay but ahead of wheat.

The proposed bill would allow Californians over the age of 21 to grow, transport, sell, possess and consume the plant, with state and local law enforcement professionals barred from enforcing the federal ban.

The tax would amount to $50 per ounce of marijuana, which retails on the black market for anywhere from $250 to $500 depending on the source and quality.

While it may sound like a pipe dream, with communities from the emerald triangle of Humboldt, Mendecino and Trinity Counties to liberal districts all along California's cost all strapped for cash, other lawmakers and voters might just tune in and turn on.

Frankly, I think they should sign an endorsement deal with Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps.

Jackson West figures libertarian stoners will inevitably complain about the tax.

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