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Marijuana Initiative Could Generate $1.4 Billion
by Leo E. Laurence, J.D. ( leopowerhere [at] msn.com )
Monday Sep 13th, 2010 7:09 PM
Proposition 19, the initiative on the November 2 ballot to decriminalize possession of marijuana in California, could bring $1.4 billion or more annually to California's parched coffers — but in advocating for the measure as part of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P.), Zenger's Newsmagazine associate editor Leo E. Laurence has found some politicians and law enforcement personnel eagerly embracing the idea, while others figuratively and sometimes literally run away from any hint of endorsing the measure.
Marijuana Initiative Could Generate $1.4 Billion

So Why are Some Politicians, Law Enforcement Against It?

by LEO E. LAURENCE, J.D.

Copyright © 2010 by Leo E. Laurence, J.D. • Used by permission

San Diego’s budget crisis might be solved when money floods into the city treasury with passage of Proposition 19, the initiative on the November ballot to regulate, tax and control cannabis.

San Diego’s massive debt could be substantially reduced, as the Proposition 19 initiative specifically gives big money to local governments, not just to the state.

With a huge state deficit, and Republicans in Sacramento dogmatically refusing to support any new taxes; taxes, assessments and fees from regulating and taxing cannabis (marijuana) as provided by Proposition 19 could dramatically help San Diego fill potholes in the streets and open branch libraries longer.

Almost two billion (with a “B”) dollars could come to local and state governments under provisions of the carefully drafted initiative.

Even the conservative state Board of Equalization, which collects state taxes, officially estimates that Proposition 19 will bring in at least $1.4 billion in new revenue.

“I absolutely support it,” says city commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez. “I think we should legalize marijuana! It would be a great thing for this city’s budget and I hope it happens. The taxes on it would be outstanding.”

“There is a strong case to be made for it,” said Democratic State Assembly candidate Toni Atkins, a former San Diego City Councilmember. “As a voter, I’m going to support it,” she stressed in an interview.

Some local politicians disagree. Republican San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio declined even to discuss it during a recorded interview, saying only that he “was just focusing on local races, so not taking positions on statewide issues.”

City Councilmember Todd Gloria also refused to support it, saying that he questioned the official estimate by the State Board of Equalization, which oversees California’s tax system, that Proposition 19 will bring at least $1.4 billion in new revenue to local and state governments. He then walked away from the interview.

A candidate for countywide office declined five times to discuss Proposition 19, preferring only to discuss medical marijuana issues facing San Diego’s City Council.

50-50 Chance of Passing

An average of five independent statewide polls of likely voters show Proposition 19 still has a roughly 50-50 chance of passing.

“CNN reported that studies show that marijuana will help more people, not just the seriously ill with painful cancer or AIDS,” added City Commissioner Murray-Ramirez in a taped interview.

“It will help people with headaches and backaches, also. This was a very serious, credible report on CNN. Let’s be honest, we have everyone from Obama to George W. Bush, [who] have admitted that they have smoked it.

“It’s not a dangerous drug. I would hope that Todd [Gloria] changes his mind.”

Opposition to Proposition 19 is growing slightly, according to a KABC News poll in Sacramento, though the measure to regulate, tax and control marijuana remains in the lead.

That poll showed 47 percent of likely voters say they will “definitely” vote ‘yes’ on the initiative. That’s down a statistically insignificant 3 percent from August. Forty-three percent said they would vote ‘no,’ while ten percent remain ‘uncertain.’

The KABC poll shows solid support among men and young voters (who are showing up at election precincts in larger numbers over the past five years, according to the county’s Registrar of Voters).

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition [L.E.A.P.] is a nationwide organization of current and former law enforcement officers, prosecutors and even Republican governors. L.E.A.P. is based in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

“Half of what the U.S. spends on law enforcement is drug related,” reports Gary Johnson, former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico. “Based on solid evidence from Holland, Portugal and elsewhere, legalization will greatly reduce marijuana use among both adults and youths.”

An estimated 64 percent of the revenue of the Mexican drug cartels comes from marijuana. Cannabis cultivation in Mexico soared by 36 percent last year, according to the U.S. state department.

“It tends to be the cash cow of the cartels,” says David T. Johnson, an assistant secretary of state in Washington.

In addition to bringing in nearly $2 billion in new revenue to local and state governments, passage of Proposition 19 could save about $200 million in costs of law enforcement, prosecutions and prisons. The U.S. has about 5 percent of the world’s population, but 26 percent of its prisoners.

“No matter how you look at it, our current policy against marijuana use has failed,” says former Republican governor Johnson.

DUI Penalties Won’t Change

The penalties for driving under the influence will not change with Proposition 19. However, several studies have shown that a person who has smoked a joint is not affected dangerously, as when a person drinks alcohol. Cannabis does not result in aggressive and violent behavior, as does alcohol consumption.

Unlike cigarettes, marijuana is not physically addictive and its use does not lead to heavier drugs.

Unlike smoking cigarettes, cannabis smoking does not have long-term toxic effects on the body. As an alternative to smoking cannabis, edibles (brownies, etc.) are already being commercially produced for medical marijuana dispensaries. Other countries, notably Britain, are experimenting with systems in which cannabis is heated but not burned.

Local speakers from L.E.A.P. are available to San Diego organizations by contacting the L.E.A.P. Speaker’s Bureau Director, Shaleen Title, at (617) 955-9638, or by e-mail: shaleen.title [at] leap.cc

More information on Proposition 19 is also available at http://www.taxcannabis.org, or facebook.com/taxcannabis, or twitter.com/taxcannabis

Zenger’s associate editor Leo E. Laurence wrote this article as a speakers’ bureau representative of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P.). Contact him at (619) 757-4909 or e-mail leopowerhere [at] msn.com