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Tax and Regulate

Campaign to Tax and Regulate Marijuana Urges Gov. Gibbons to Put that Option on the Table


FEBRUARY 8, 2010

Campaign to Tax and Regulate Marijuana Urges Gov. Gibbons to Put that Option on the Table

Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws points to tens of millions of dollars in potential revenues and thousands of new jobs

CONTACT: Dave Schwartz, NSML campaign manager ………………………. 702-727-1080

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — Tonight, Gov. Jim Gibbons will deliver his State of the State address, in which he will discuss the serious financial crisis facing Nevada. The state reportedly needs to cut nearly $900 million in spending in order to bring its budget into balance. According to some reports, Gov. Gibbons is seeking new ways to close the budget gap and is willing to put all options on the table. With this financial crisis looming, and Gov. Gibbons’ speech coming up in just hours, Dave Schwartz, campaign manager for Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, released the following statement:

            “As a longtime resident of Nevada, I am seriously concerned about the state’s financial situation. The down economy has caused devastating job losses and dramatically diminished revenues. In order to get the state back on sound financial footing, the governor must consider not only cuts in spending, but also new sources of tax revenue. There is no greater opportunity than regulating and taxing the sale of marijuana to adults.

            “A legal marijuana market would likely generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state, just based on excise and sales taxes. It would also create thousands of new tax-paying employees in the state, as well as new businesses in areas revitalized by the existence of marijuana retail stores.

            “One important piece of information to keep in mind is that marijuana is far less harmful than a substance already widely available to Nevadans—alcohol. By giving adults in the state the legal option of using marijuana instead of alcohol, we could make our communities healthier and safer while generating new revenues that can be used to improve our roads and our schools. This is a no-lose opportunity, and we sincerely hope the governor will seriously consider it.”

            Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws is a ballot advocacy group formed in Nevada to support a 2012 ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in the state.


Marijuana Legalization: California Tax and Regulate Has Eight-Point Lead in Latest Poll, But Still Under 50%

According to a Los Angeles Times/USC poll released Tuesday, the California Tax and Regulate Cannabis initiative has the support of 49% of voters, while 41% are opposed, and 10% are undecided. The figures are in line with other recent polls. Two weeks ago, an internal campaign poll had support at 51% and another public opinion poll had it at 49%. The bad news for initiative supporters in the latest poll is that it needs 50% plus one vote to win, and it isn't there yet. The good news, however, is that the initiative only needs to pick up one out of five of those undecided voters to go over the top. Or, as Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh institute of politics put it: "The good news for proponents is that they are starting off with a decent lead. The good news for the opposition is that initiatives that start off at less than 50% in the polls usually have a hard time." The poll also questioned voters about their marijuana use histories, finding that 37% had tried pot and 11% had smoked it within the last year. Not surprisingly, those who had smoked within the last year favored the initiative by more than four-to-one (82%). This latest poll, like previous ones, points to women, especially married women, as a key demographic. While men favor the initiative, women are split, and among married women, 49% oppose the initiative while 40% are in favor. Pollsters also asked about some of the key arguments made by supporters and opponents of the initiative. When asked whether they thought legalization marijuana could raise a billion dollars in revenue, 42% said yes, while 38% said that figure was wildly exaggerated. Voters in Los Angeles, where dispensaries spread like wildfire in the last half of the last decade, were most likely to believe that such revenues could be generated. When asked whether legalizing marijuana would worsen social problems, voters were similarly split, although such concerns especially resonated with those who oppose the initiative. Of that group, 83% think freeing the weed would increase crime and teen marijuana. Fifty-five percent of married women also think that. Attitudes toward legalization diverge sharply by age, with support much higher among younger voters. A 52% majority of voters 65 and older oppose legalization. Among voters between 45 and 64, 49% support it. But among those 30 to 44, 53% are in favor, and that rises to 61% among those 18 to 29. The next five months is going to be very interesting. But if the tax and regulate initiative is to emerge victorious at the polls come November, it has its work cut out for it. And it looks very much like the path to victory is going to have to go through mom.

It's Official! California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for the November Ballot

Californians will be voting on whether to legalize marijuana in November. The California Secretary of State's office Wednesday certified the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 initiative as having handed in enough valid voters' signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative is sponsored by Oaksterdam medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee and would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults and allow for personal grows of up to 25 square feet. It also provides for the taxed and regulated sale of marijuana by local option, meaning counties and municipalities could opt out of legalized marijuana sales. Some 433,000 valid signatures were required to make the ballot; the initiative campaign had gathered some 690,000. On Tuesday, state officials had certified 415,000 signatures as valid, but that didn't include signatures from Los Angeles County. Initiative supporters there Wednesday handed in more than 140,000 signatures. With an overall signature validity rate of around 80%, that as much as ensured that the measure would make the ballot. Late Wednesday afternoon, California Secretary of State's office made it official. Its web page listing Qualified Ballot Measures now includes the marijuana legalization under initiative approved for the November ballot. The 104,000 valid signatures from Los Angeles County put it well over the top. "This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Banning marijuana outright has been a disaster, fueling a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wasting billions in scarce law enforcement resources, and making criminals of countless law-abiding citizens. Elected officials haven’t stopped these punitive, profligate policies. Now voters can bring the reality check of sensible marijuana regulation to California." "If passed, this initiative would offer a welcome change to California’s miserable status quo marijuana policy," said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which recently endorsed the initiative. "Our current marijuana laws are failing California. Year after year, prohibition forces police to spend time chasing down non-violent marijuana offenders while tens of thousands of violent crimes go unsolved – all while marijuana use and availability remain unchanged." Proponents of the measure will emphasize the fiscal impact of taxing marijuana—the state Board of Equalization has estimated that it legalization could generate $1.3 billion in tax revenues a year—as well as the impact of regulation could have on reducing teen access to the weed. They can also point out that by now, California has lived with a form of regulated marijuana distribution—the medical marijuana dispensary system—for years and the sky hasn't fallen. Opponents, which will largely consist of law enforcement lobbying groups, community anti-drug organizations, and elements of the African-American religious community, will argue that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and that crime and drugged driving will increase. But if opponents want to play the cop card, initiative organizers have some cards of their own. In a press release Wednesday evening, they had several former law enforcement figures lined up in support of taxation and regulation. "As a retired Orange County Judge, I've been on the front lines of the drug war for three decades, and I know from experience that the current approach is simply not working," said Retired Superior Court Judge James Gray. "Controlling marijuana with regulations similar to those currently in place for alcohol will put street drug dealers and organized crime out of business." "The Control and Tax Initiative is a welcome change for law enforcement in California," said Kyle Kazan, a retired Torrance Police officer. "It will allow police to get back to work fighting violent crime." Jeffrey Studdard, a former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, emphasized the significant controls created by the Control and Tax Initiative to safely and responsibly regulate cannabis. "The initiative will toughen penalties for providing marijuana to minors, ban possession at schools, and prohibit public consumption," Studdard said. The campaign should be a nail-biter. Legalization polled 56% in an April Field poll, and initiative organizers say their own private research is showing similar results. But the conventional wisdom among initiative watchers is that polling needs to be above 60% at the beginning of the campaign, before attacks on specific aspects of any given initiative begin to erode support. But despite the misgivings of some movement allies, who cringe at the thought of defeat in California, this year's legalization vote is now a reality. "California led the way on medical marijuana with Prop 215 in 1996,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now it’s time again for California to lead the way in ending the follies of marijuana prohibition in favor of a responsible policy of tax and regulation."

In US First, California Assembly Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

A bill to legalize the adult use, sale, and production of marijuana was approved Tuesday by a 4-3 vote in the California Assembly Public Safety Committee. While the vote was historic—it marked the first time a state legislative committee anywhere had voted for a marijuana legalization bill—a Friday legislative deadline means the bill is likely to die before it reaches the Assembly floor.
hearing room audience
Still, supporters pronounced themselves well pleased. "The conversation is definitely gaining traction in Sacramento," bill sponsor Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF) told a press conference at the capitol after the vote. "This is a significant vote because it legitimizes the quest for debate. There was a time when the m-word would never have been brought up in Sacramento." “This historic vote marks the formal beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who testified before the committee both Tuesday and in an earlier hearing. “Making marijuana legal has now entered the public dialogue in a credible way. Decades of wasteful, punitive, racist marijuana policy have taken quite a toll in this country. The Public Safety Committee has demonstrated that serious people take ending marijuana prohibition seriously.” "The mere fact that there was a vote in the Assembly to regulate and control the sale and distribution of marijuana would have been unthinkable even one year ago," said former Orange County Judge Jim Gray, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, who also testified before the committee last fall. "And if the bill isn't fully enacted into law this year, it will be soon. Or, the bill will be irrelevant because the voters will have passed the measure to regulate and tax marijuana that will be on the ballot this November," Gray pointedly added. The bill, AB 390, the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act would impose a $50 an ounce tax on marijuana sales and would task the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate them. It was amended slightly from the original by Ammiano. In one example, the bill strikes "legalize" and replaces it with "regulate." It also strikes out language saying the bill would go into effect after federal law changes. And it adds language to clarify that medical marijuana does not come under its purview. Tuesday's Public Safety Committee opened to a hearing room packed with legalization supporters, but also by more than a dozen uniformed police chiefs and high-ranking police officers from around the state. Law enforcement was out in force to make its displeasure known.
police and preacher present to oppose the Ammiano bill
But first came Ammiano himself, recusing himself from his position as committee chair to testify in favor of his bill. "This is landmark legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana," Ammiano told his colleagues. "It would generate nearly a billion dollars annually in revenues, according to the Board of Equalization, and would leave law enforcement to focus on serious crimes, violent crimes, and hard drugs. The drug wars have failed," the San Francisco solon said emphatically. "Prohibition has fostered anarchy. Legalization allows regulations, and regulation allows order." Since the primary hearing on the bill took place last fall, Tuesday's hearing was limited to 30 minutes (it was closer to 45), and witnesses either said their pieces succinctly or were gently chided by committee Vice-Chair Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills). The Drug Policy Alliance's Gutwillig recapped testimony he gave last fall, as did the Marijuana Policy Project California state director Aaron Smith. "AB 390 is a historic reversal of failed marijuana policies," said Gutwillig. "It would begin to control a substance that is already commonly available and consumed, but unregulated. Prohibition has created enormous social costs and jeopardized public safety instead of enhancing it." "This legislation would finally put California on track for a sensible marijuana policy in line with the views of most California voters," said Smith. Also endorsing the bill was Matt Gray of Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety, a California group lobbying for more progressive criminal justice policies. "We support the bill," said Gray. "Marijuana is the state's largest cash crop, and this bill will remove a revenue stream from organized crime and decrease availability for youth." The opposition, led by law enforcement, church and community anti-drug groups, and a former deputy drug czar, threw everything short of the kitchen sink at the committee in a bid to sink the bill. Hoary old chestnuts reminiscent of "Reefer Madness" were revived, as well as new talking points designed to discourage members from voting for legalization.
bill sponsor Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, with Dale Gieringer,
Stephen Gutwillig and Aaron Smith in background
"I traveled here with a heavy heart," said former deputy director for demand reduction for the Office of National Drug Control Policy Andrea Barthwell, the big hitter leading off for the opposition. "The eyes of America are upon you," she told the committee. "We don't want you to set a course that worsens the health of Americans for years to come. This is a scheme that will benefit drug cartel kingpins and corner drug dealers and create chaos in our public health system," she warned. "People all over the country are afraid California will have this leverage in the same way the medical marijuana initiative was leveraged to create a sense that these are reasonable policies," Barthwell continued. "We've reduced drinking and smoking through public health, and prohibition is working for our young people to keep them drug free," she added. "Legalization of marijuana will only increase the challenges facing us," said San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer. "What good can come from making powerful addictive drugs more cheaply available? Don't we have enough trouble with the two legal drugs? Adding an additional intoxicant will lead to increase drugged driving and teen sex," she told the committee. "Marijuana of today is not the dope your parent's smoked," she added for good measure. After mentioning that in the Netherlands cannabis cafes have "run rampant," asserting that "drug cartels will become legal cultivators," and that legalization would bring about "quantum increases" in the availability of marijuana, Manheimer swung for the fence. "To balance the budget on the back of the harm caused by illegal intoxicants is mind-boggling—I would call it blood money," she said. Worse, "the addictive qualities of these drugs will cause more crimes as people struggle to find money to buy marijuana. We are very concerned about marijuana-related violence." Then it was the turn of Claude Cook, regional director of the National Narcotics Officers Associations Coalition. "This is dangerous work we do," Cook said by way of introduction. "We are strongly opposed to AB 390, we see no benefit for our communities. Marijuana is also carcinogenic. If we want to raise revenue, maybe it would be safer to just bring back cigarette vending machines. This is human misery for tax dollars." And by the way, "Drug offenders who are in prison have earned their way there by past criminal conduct," he added. Cook predicted downright disaster were the bill to pass. "Use by juveniles will increase. Organized crime will flourish. California will become a source nation for marijuana for the rest of the country. The cartels will thrive. Highway fatalities will rise," he said without explaining just how he arrived at those dire conclusions.
police waiting to speak at anti-drug rally after committee vote
"I see the devastation of marijuana and drugs in my community," thundered Bishop Ron Allen, "CEO and president" of the International Faith-based Coalition, and a self-described former crack addict who started with marijuana. "If marijuana is legalized and we have to deal with it in our liquor stores and communities, you have never seen a devastation like you're going to see. It's going to lose us a generation. You don't want this blood on your hands." "I'm going to discount the ad hominems and alarmist attacks," Ammiano replied after the testimony. "Some of the arguments today reminded me of Reefer Madness," he said Before moving to a vote, committee members briefly discussed their positions. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) noted that because of the state's medical marijuana law, "We have created a class difference, where a certain class of our population can utilize dispensaries for their own reasons to use marijuana, and on the other hand, we have the street activity around marijuana that is not under semi-legal status." Skinner voted for the bill, while saying she was not sure she would support it on the Assembly floor. "I'm not supporting marijuana, but the question is who we regulate it and is it time to have a serious debate." In the end, four of five Democratic committee members—all from the Bay area—supported the bill, while one Democrat joined the two Republicans on the committee in opposing it." The bill would normally head next to the Assembly Health Committee, but given the time constraints on the legislature, no further action is likely to be taken this session. Still, Tuesday was a historic day in Sacramento and in the annals of the American marijuana reform movement.

Public Opinion: In Gallup Poll, Support for Legalizing Marijuana Reaches All-Time High; A Majority in the West Say Free the Weed

Public Opinion: In Gallup Poll, Support for Legalizing Reaches All-Time High; Over 50% in the West Are in Favor According to the most recent Gallup poll, 44% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, while 54% oppose it. The 44% figure is the highest since Gallup began polling on the issue nearly 40 years ago. In 1970, only 12% of respondents favored legalization. That figure climbed to 28% in 1977, then declined slightly and reached a plateau with support holding at around 25% for the next two decades. But in the past decade, public opinion has begun to shift, with support hitting 34% in 2002, 36% in 2006, and now, 44%. Conversely, opposition to legalization is now at an all-time low. It was 84% in 1970, 66% in 1977, and around 73% for most of the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton eras. But beginning in about 1996, opposition began to decline, dropping to 62% in 2002, 60% in 2006, and now, 54%. A related question—whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed to raise revenues for state governments—won similar support levels in the Gallup poll. Some 42% of respondents said they would favor such a move in their state, while 56% were opposed. In the West, however, support for tax and legalize has gone over the top; 53% favor such an approach. Looking at various demographic groups, support for marijuana legalization is highest among self-described liberals, at 78%. Only 26% of conservatives and 46% of moderates supported legalization. Similarly, 54% of Democrats, 49% of independents, and 28% of Republicans supported legalization. There is also a clear generational divide. Half of those under age 50 support legalization, compared to 45% aged 50 to 64, and only 28% of seniors. Support for legalization has swollen among certain demographic groups since the last Gallup poll on the issue in 2005. The number in favor of legalization jumped more than 10 points among women (+12), young people (+11), Democrats (+13), liberals (+15), moderates (+11), and residents of the West (+13). If these rates of increase in support for legalization continue over the medium term, the world as we know may indeed end in 2012.

Hearings on Massachusetts "Tax and Regulate" Bill in Boston Next Week

On Wednesday, October 14, 2009, at 10:00am in Room B2 at the State House in Boston, the Joint Committee on Revenue in the Massachusetts legislature will hold a public hearing on bill H. 2929, An Act to Regulate and Tax the Cannabis Industry. If passed, the new law would repeal existing marijuana prohibition laws at the state level and replace them with a system of regulation and taxation, similar to how wine is sold. The law, in fact, is largely modeled after the alcohol control laws. According to Northampton attorney Richard M. Evans, a former DRCNet board member and the petitioner whose Representative presented the bill, Wednesday will mark the first time a state legislature has considered a full legalization bill. The moment is also propitious because Massachusetts this year implemented its new, voter-enacted decriminalization law, and because Gov. Deval Patrick, while not prioritizing it, is on the record as being very comfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana. So while we don't expect that H. 2929 will be enacted this year, it is a rare and important opportunity to forward the debate on alternatives to prohibition. And you can help: by showing up Wednesday if you can; by spreading the word and getting others to come out; by suggesting to your local newspaper that they cover the hearing; and by contacting your state legislators to express your support for H. 2929. Directions to the State House are available here. Please let us know what you're able to do to support H. 2929, and visit for further information about it. Visit to find out about extensive activist opportunities in Massachusetts.