‪New Bill to Tax and Legalize Marijuana in D.C. Could Solve Budget Deficit

As U.S. lawmakers look for ways to balance the national budget, a new bill formally introduced to the D.C. council this week may provide the answer as a major source of tax revenue.

The bill aims to legalize possession of marijuana for adults over 21, regulate sale and licensing and tax the transactions in order to help generate much-needed tax revenue in the nation's capital.

Initiated by Councilman David Grosso, the bill would eliminate criminal penalties for possession and potentially generate a large new revenue stream by authorizing the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to license business to produce, process and sell marijuana – with a 15 percent excise tax levied on its sale to go toward substance abuse prevention programs, Wamu reported.

Colorado and Washington passed similar laws in 2012 and will begin issuing licenses later this year.

According to Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, marijuana prohibition has been a disastrous public policy failure:

"The District has the highest marijuana possession arrest rate in the country, with black residents more than eight times as likely to be arrested than whites, even with similar levels of use. Despite spending millions of dollars to make thousands of arrests and ruin countless lives, marijuana is almost universally available. It’s time for a smarter approach,” he told Wamu.

Grant Smith, policy manger with the Drug Policy Alliance Office of National Affairs agrees:

“Following the introduction of marijuana decriminalization legislation by Council member Tommy Wells, Council member David Grosso's proposal to tax and regulate marijuana will enhance efforts to provide District residents with relief from prohibitionist policies that have failed to curb the availability of marijuana to young people. Our nation's Capital would be wise to follow Colorado and Washington," he explained to Activistpost.

With the majority of Americans supporting weed legalization, marijuana activists plan to place the issue on the ballot should D.C. council fail to pass the proposed legislation. 

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