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Legislative Analyst’s Office: California's Prop. 19 Would Raise "Hundreds of Millions of Dollars" Annually

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On Tuesday I penned a commentary for the Los Angeles Times rebutting Sen. Dianne Feinstein's public condemnation of Prop. 19 -- The Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Initiative of 2010.

Now the California Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO), which provides non-partisan fiscal and policy advice, has come out with their own repudiation of Sen. Feinstein's claims. Specifically, it sets the record straight regarding opponents' allegations that passage of Prop. 19 would not result in significant cost savings, and counters the senator's groundless argument (which nevertheless will appear in the 2010 California voter guidebook) that the measure is "a jumbled legal nightmare that will make our highways, our workplaces and our communities less safe."

You can read the entire LAO summary here. Below are some key excerpts regarding what the passage or Prop 19 would and would not do.

Proposition 19 -- Changes California Law to Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed
via the California Legislative Analyst’s Office

State Legalization of Marijuana Possession and Cultivation for Personal Use
Under the measure, persons age 21 or older generally may (1) possess, process, share or transport up to one ounce of marijuana; (2) cultivate marijuana on private property in an area up to 25 square feet per private residence or parcel; (3) possess harvested and living marijuana plants cultivated in such an area; and (4) possess any items or equipment associated with the above activities. ... The state and local governments could also authorize the possession and cultivation of larger amounts of marijuana. ... State and local law enforcement agencies could not seize or destroy marijuana from persons in compliance with the measure.

In addition, the measure states that no individual could be punished, fined, or discriminated against for engaging in any conduct permitted by the measure.

[E]mployers would retain existing rights to address consumption of marijuana that impairs an employee’s job performance.

[T]he measure would not change existing laws that prohibit driving under the influence of drugs or that prohibit possessing marijuana on the grounds of elementary, middle, and high schools.

Authorization of Commercial Marijuana Activities
The measure allows local governments to adopt ordinances and regulations regarding commercial marijuana-related activities— including marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution, transportation, and retail sales. For example, local governments could license establishments that could sell marijuana to persons 21 and older. ... As discussed below, the state also could authorize, regulate, and tax such activities.

... Whether or not local governments engaged in this regulation, the state could, on a statewide basis, regulate the commercial production of marijuana. The state could also authorize the production of hemp, a type of marijuana plant that can be used to make products such as fabric and paper.

Impacts on State and Local Expenditures
Reduction in State and Local Correctional Costs. The measure could result in savings to the state and local governments by reducing the number of marijuana offenders incarcerated in state prisons and county jails, as well as the number placed under county probation or state parole supervision. These savings could reach several tens of millions of dollars annually.

Reduction in Court and Law Enforcement Costs. The measure would result in a reduction in state and local costs for enforcement of marijuana-related offenses and the handling of related criminal cases in the court system.

Impacts on State and Local Revenues
The state and local governments could receive additional revenues from taxes, assessments, and fees from marijuana-related activities allowed under this measure. ... To the extent that a commercial marijuana industry developed in the state, however, we estimate that the state and local governments could eventually collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually in additional revenues.

NORML's Outreach Coordinator Russ Belville also has recently posted a line-by-line analysis of Prop. 19 here, which addresses additional questions and concerns about the measure.