The Washington Post

Legalizing pot could save California hundreds of millions every year, state says

Marijuana legislation abounds, as of Sept. 22, 2013. (Credit: Thomson Reuters' WestlawNext.)
Marijuana legislation abounds  as of Sept. 22, 2013. (Thomson Reuters’ WestlawNext)

A proposed ballot measure that would legalize possession, use, growth and cultivation of marijuana would save the state of California hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to a summary issued Thursday by the state attorney general’s office.

The summary [pdf], which Attorney General Kamala Harris’s (D) office releases for each proposed ballot measure, says the state would save “in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually” on law enforcement costs associated with enforcing marijuana laws.

As an added bonus, Harris’s office said sales tax revenues could add more cash — again, in the “low hundreds of millions of dollars annually” — to the state’s bottom line.

Supporters of the proposed ballot measure would need to collect 504,760 signatures by May 23 to get the initiative — formally known by its ballot title, “Marijuana Legalization. Initiative Statute” — on the 2014 ballot.

The group backing legalization won’t actually be collecting signatures for this version of the bill; the lead sponsor told the San Francisco Chronicle that they had tweaked the initiative’s language to allow individuals to grow more marijuana for personal use. A revised version [pdf] of the ballot initiative, dubbed the “Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014,” is scheduled to be reviewed by the attorney general’s office by the end of January, the Chronicle reported.

Both versions of the measure would legalize the use, growth, cultivation, possession, transportation, storage and sale of marijuana, while creating a commission to regulate and issue business licenses for cultivation and sales.

The measure would apply retail sales taxes to marijuana sold for recreational purposes, while allocating that money equally to education, health care, law enforcement and drug abuse programs. It also prevents state and local law enforcement officials from enforcing federal marijuana laws.

Some California officials who back marijuana legalization had urged fellow supporters to wait until 2016, when the electorate will be larger, younger and more ethnically diverse, to put a measure on the fall ballot. But the ballot summary is so favorable that strategists think they will be able to pass the measure even in the lower-turnout midterm year.

California has been in the vanguard of the pro-marijuana movement. The state was the first in the country to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes, back in 1996. In 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed legislation decriminalizing possession of an ounce or less.

If the ballot measure passes, California would be the third state to legalize marijuana, along with Washington and Colorado, where voters legalized the drug through ballot measures this year.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday. Get caught up on the race.
The feminist appeal may not be working for Clinton
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is beating Clinton among women by eight percentage points, according to a new CNN-WMUR survey. This represents a big shift from the results last week in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton won women by 11 points.
The Post's Dan Balz says ...
This was supposed to be the strongest Republican presidential field in memory, but cracks are showing. At Saturday night's debate, Marco Rubio withered in the face of unyielding attacks from Chris Christie, drawing attention to the biggest question about his candidacy: Is he ready to be president? How much the debate will affect Rubio's standing Tuesday is anybody's guess. But even if he does well, the question about his readiness to serve as president and to go up against Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee, will linger.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She left the state Sunday to go to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 40%
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.