AB 390, introduced to the state legislature on Feb. 23 by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would make it legal to use, buy, grow and sell marijuana for recreational use for those over the age of 21.
The proposed bill would tax buyers $50 per ounce of marijuana, a move that would help the state’s economy, in theory, to the tune of over $1 billion annually. This fact makes the bill worthy of consideration.
California’s ailing economy needs all the help it can get. Other stopgap measures that have been mentioned, such as privatizing the state lottery, would provide a one-time payoff. Legalizing marijuana and taxing it accordingly would produce an annual windfall for the state.
Legalization would also reduce costs in other areas. Police and narcotics units would save money by directing their attention elsewhere; the courts would have to deal with thousands fewer cases; and prisons would have room for criminals convicted of more serious charges.
The bill would not do away with illicit marijuana sales; there will always be a black market for products that are tax-free. It would however, raise a great deal of money from legal sales of the drug. Given the financial situation of the state, legislators should be seriously considering any and all forms of relief.
Even considering California’s liberal history, it is unfortunate that AB 390 will probably not pass. Legislators must keep looking for new ideas, however, and this certainly fits the bill (so to speak).