On November 2nd this year, California residents will be given an opportunity to vote to be the first state in the United States to legalize the consumption of marijuana, or cannabis. While this may sound like a strange idea to many at first, decriminalizing, taxing, and regulating this recreational substance may be just what California needs to generate enough revenue to get out of debt and reduce violent crime.
The bill specifies that individuals over 21 years of age will be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for their own use in private homes or licensed marijuana establishments. While this may seem simple enough, the fiscal impact of the issue is tremendous. Currently, the marijuana black market in CA operates at about $14 billion in annual sales. At a tax rate of $50 per ounce, the State Board of Equalization estimates that this measure would generate $1.4 billion in revenue from sales alone, which is enough to cover more than 7% of the state’s budget deficit.
A great deal of the monetary influence of Proposition 19, however, is a reduction of costs in law enforcement, courts, and state prisons. Currently, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on police efforts to arrest marijuana consumers; were the product legalized, law enforcement officials would be able to prioritize and focus on violent crime, freeing up court time and prison space for those who have committed more serious offenses, such as murder, rape, and larceny.
Lastly, and most importantly, legalizing marijuana would take the $14 billion annual sales out of the hands of violent drug cartels, which would decrease violent crime, especially in larger cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, improving the overall quality of life for residents of many neighborhoods and reducing the number of victims of senseless violence over the distribution of cannabis.
On November 2nd, we as a state will be given the opportunity to allow necessary tax revenue to drastically help California’s economy, reduce violent crime throughout the state, and allow our police, law enforcement, and judicial systems become more efficient and effective. Currently, Proposition 19 is supported by hundreds of groups and officials, including people from both the Democratic and Republican Parties, religious groups from several faiths, businesspeople, economists, police chiefs, and average, American citizens. It is time that we all take a stand and move to improve the condition of our state through marijuana legalization today.