18 States Discuss Marijuana-Reform Measures; Most Will Fail


This has been a bumper year for marijuana legislation, reports Stateline.org. Crushing state budget deficits gave advocates in California, Washington, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Yorkm and elsewhere an opening to pitch marijuana as a new source of tax revenue. At the same time, the Obama administration gave users and distributors some breathing room by signaling that it would scale back on prosecuting them as long as they comply with state law. Eighteen states discussed medical marijuana through legislation or citizen initiatives this year, an unusually high number.

Most visibly, California election officials announced on March 24, that this year's ballot would include a question to allow local governments to legalize and tax marijuana, casting a spotlight on the state that first legalized medical marijuana in 1996. While most state legislative efforts are likely to fail, a victory in California could encourage other states to follow suit just as they did when California approved medical marijuana. A 2009 poll found 56 percent of California voters support outright legalization. Estimates from California's Board of Equalization peg the amount the state could raise from marijuana legalization at $1.4 billion. Those projections rest on shaky assumptions that the state could keep track of growers and that distributors would accurately disclose their sales, if at all. Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, it's unclear how the Obama administration would react to more permissive state marijuana laws.

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