Cannabis legalization to create tax, revenue

By Robert Clinton, Opinion Editor

Californians will have the opportunity on Tuesday to vote to legalize the recreational use of cannabis with a yes vote on Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which hopes to increase tax revenue to the state through sales of the controversial plant.

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 215 which legalized medicinal marijuana while continuing to keep the plant illegal under federal law.

Now, 20 years later, Proposition 64 would allow adults over 21 years old to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes.

Proposition 64 creates two new taxes for the cultivation and retail sale of marijuana. For cultivation, a $9.25 tax per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves is proposed, and a 15 percent sales tax will be applied to the retail price of marijuana.

Mayra Garcia, a budtender at Richmond’s Green Remedy Collective (a cannabis dispensary), said management has discussed the increased regulations in the proposition, but the most important thing for the collective is providing medication to the actual patients they serve.

Even if students have a medical marijuana card, it is prohibited to bring medical pot to campus.

“Things changing here depend on if the rules on campus are changed,” district Police Services Lt. Tom Holt said. “It also depends on the way the proposition is written.”

Revenue from both taxes would be placed in a new California Marijuana Tax Fund. First, the revenue would be used to cover costs of administering and enforcing the measure. Then, they would be distributed for drug research, treatment and enforcement of the law.

Up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana would be legal to possess under Proposition 64.

Smoking would be permitted in private homes or at a business licensed for on-site marijuana consumption.

Californians would be permitted to grow up to six plants within a private home as long as the area is locked and hidden from the public.

The initiative is supported by more than 20 current and former elected officials, most notably former presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Dr. Donald Lyman, former chief of Chronic Disease and Injury Control at the California Department of Public Health; Gretchen Burns, executive director of Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing; and Steven Downing, former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, wrote the official argument in support of Proposition 64.

They say Proposition 64 finally creates a safe, legal and comprehensive system for adult use of marijuana while protecting children.

Last month, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Field Research Corporation conducted polling for Proposition 64 showing 60 percent of potential voters support the initiative.

Opponents feel the plan goes too far in favor of the industry and favors legalization at all costs at the expense of current medical patients. Also, the ability to grow up to six plants per home in a school zone worries dissenters.