With marijuana legalization on the ballot, many talk of what revenue could do for the California economy. According to state tax collectors, “the bill would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in much needed revenue, offsetting some of the billions of dollars in service cuts and spending reductions outlined in the recently approved state budget.” Not only would it bring revenue through taxation, but a whole industry of packing and distributing can give jobs to the throngs of unemployed citizens while saving the state $1 billion on ceasing to arrest, prosecute and imprison nonviolent offenders.
Opponents of the bill argue that legalizing vices would mean morally bankrupting society while spouting various health risks. “Marijuana is a drug that clouds people’s judgment. It affects their ability to concentrate and react, and it certainly has impacts on third parties,” says [Joel W. Hay, professor of pharmaceutical economics at USC], who has written on the societal costs of drug abuse. “It’s one more drug that will add to the toll on society. At the same time, health problems associated with marijuana are fairly new and associated with even more debate. “Interpretations [of marijuana research] may tell more about [one’s] own biases than the data,” writes Mitch Earleywine in Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence, published in August by Oxford. For example: “Prohibitionists might mention that THC [delta-9 tetra-hydrocannabinol, the smile-producing chemical in pot] often appears in the blood of people in auto accidents. Yet they might omit the fact that most of these people also drank alcohol. ”
The ballot measure in California would allow people 21 years and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, enough for dozens of joints. Residents also could grow their own crop of the plant in gardens measuring up to 25 square feet.
The proposal would ban users from using marijuana in public or smoking it while minors are present. It also would make it illegal to possess the drug on school grounds or drive while under its influence.
Proponents of the measure say legalizing marijuana could save the state $200 million a year by reducing public safety costs. At the same time, it could generate tax revenue for local governments.