Tax ‘Em If You Got ‘Em: Marijuana Measure Files Signatures
California moved a step closer to legalizing marijuana January 28 as proponents of a measure to regulate and tax the drug submitted approximately 700,000 signatures to place the proposal on the November ballot.
The “Regulate, Control, Tax Cannabis” initiative requires 434,000 valid signatures to be placed before voters.
The initiative says one of its purposes is to “regulate cannabis like we do alcohol: Allow adults to possess and consumer small amounts of cannabis.” However, other parts of the measure appear to allow larger-scale growing.
Cities and counties would be allowed – but not required – to adopt ordinances that license and regulate the “cultivation, processing, distribution, transportation and sale of marijuana.
Some estimates are that regulating and taxing marijuana sales could raise up to $1.4 billion annually.
In its assessment of the measure, the Legislative Analyst says the federal government’s continued enforcement of federal marijuana laws that don’t conflict with California’s medical marijuana laws, make the revenues generated by the initiative “subject to significant uncertainty.”
But the analyst concludes that there would be “savings of up to several tens of millions of dollars annually” to state and local governments by no longer having to jail or supervise certain types of marijuana offenders.
And, the analyst finds, there is “unknown but potentially major tax, fee, and benefit assessment revenues” for state and local government related to the production and sale of marijuana.”
Under the initiative, retail sales would be limited to one ounce per transaction in licensed facilities to persons 21 years of age or older.
One of the initiative’s major sponsors is S.K. Seymour LLC in Oakland, which does business as Oaksterdam University, whose webpage says it is “America’s first cannabis college” and provides “students with the highest quality training for the cannabis industry.”
Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University said this in a press release announcing the submission of signatures to county registrars:
““This is a historic day. The people of California now have the opportunity to support a common-sense solution for a broken budget and dysfunctional drug laws.”
The California Secretary of State shows the “Tax Cannabis 2010” committee, which is sponsored by S. K. Seymour LLC raising and spending $1 million to qualify the measure.
Of the $1 million, $810,000 came from S. K. Seymour and another $90,000 from Oaksterdam University.
In cities that elect not to tax marijuana sales, buying and selling marijuana within that city’s limits would still be illegal “but that city’s citizens still have the right to possess and consume small amounts.”
Elsewhere, the initiative says one of its purposes is to “permit the cultivation of small amounts of cannabis for personal consumption.”
It allows a 25 square foot area for growing per private residence – 5 feet by 5 feet – but says that if there is no residence on the property the parcel can be used for growing.
While transactions are limited to one ounce – 28.5 grams — the initiative also makes it legal for someone to possess and transport up to an ounce of cannabis for personal use.
But it also makes it difficult to be successfully prosecuted for exceeding the limit.
First, “only the active amount of the cannabis in an edible cannabis product shall be included” in the weight calculation.
And, “living and harvested cannabis plants shall be assessed by square footage not by weight.”
Finally, any person accused of violating the weight limits in the initiative has the “right to an affirmative defense that the cannabis was reasonably related to his or her personal consumption.”
An April 2009 Field Poll found 56 percent of California voters supporting legalizing and taxing marijuana.
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