State Agency Report: California Could Benefit from Legalized Marijuana

If California legalizes a recreational cannabis industry in 2016, the state could be in a position to save nearly half a billion dollars through law enforcement reductions and tax revenue, according to a new report.

Last week, the state’s Legislative Analysis Office (LAO), which is an unbiased agency charged with researching potential scenarios for proposed laws, published a breakdown of its fiscal effect if voters were to approve the California Craft Cannabis Initiative in the next presidential election.

The proposal, which is far from being the best bet for winning the support of millions of dollars in contributions currently waiting to be thrown at a viable campaign, was utilized for the sake of the analysis because it was one of the first initiatives to be authorized by the state.

In the report, the LAO determined that the legalization of marijuana could save both state and local governments substantial resources by reducing the number of people incarcerated as the result of pot offenses, providing savings reaching into the “tens of millions of dollars,” with a realistic potential for surpassing $100 million per year.

Therefore, legalization could offer a considerable cut to the state’s budget, which California’s chief budget analyst reported earlier this year as having a $16 billion loss. Although not providing the deficit without enough girth to fill all of the state’s financial frustrations, a legal cannabis trade would certainly enable a great deal of immediate relief – especially considering that the LAO estimates “several hundred million dollars” in annual tax revenue would be collected.

Although the report points out some challenges that could arise with the advent of a recreational cannabis trade, specifically the risks associated with the unstable hammer of the Justice Department, the consensus remains that legal weed would be an enormous benefit to the state.

But, unfortunately, there are still a couple of disturbing issues that some fear could sabotage the potential for legalization in 2016.

For starters, even though pot advocates have been discussing the submission of proposals aimed at legalizing cannabis for some time, only a few uninspiring efforts have be introduced. And so far, no influential advocacy groups or corporate interests appear to be writing checks to ensure the passage of these measures. This is due to speculation that all of the money reserved to finance an initiative – we’re talking about millions of dollars that have already be raised for the chosen campaign – is being saved for an initiative that serves the best interest of the national agenda.

This cash will likely go to Reform California, an initiative that not only has the support of local advocacy groups, law enforcement, and labor unions, but all of their work is being done in connection with the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Although the group has not yet submitted the language of their proposal, they are expected to roll it out before the end of summer. At that point, organizers would need to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 585,000 signatures to earn a spot on the ballot in the 2016 election.

The depressing news, however, is while California stands a relatively good chance at getting an initiative on the ballot, the latest public opinion poll indicates that only a slim majority of the state’s voters actually support the cause. Despite record-breaking numbers, the latest survey from the Public Policy Institute of California reveals that just 54 percent of the state’s voters support the legalization of a statewide cannabis trade.

Although encouraging, the latest data does not exactly reveal the kind of landslide support that makes it easy for cohorts of a proposed ballot initiative to dump in upwards of $20 million into a campaign.

Yet, an attempt must be made, as legalizing marijuana in California could spur an uprising in similar campaigns in other states and ultimately move the entire nation towards nationwide reform.

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