Many governments are considering legalizing and taxing marijuana for the money. Pulling in tax revenues like those seen in Colorado and Washington sounds like a good deal to states with hurting budgets.
But a blue-ribbon panel of marijuana experts in California is saying after long deliberation that although there are plenty of reasons to legalize, money shouldn’t be one of them.
The committee was assembled by the American Civil Liberties Union and includes 24 professionals such as law enforcement reps, legal scholars, doctors, tax experts, and a former advisor on drug policies to the White House. After careful consideration, the panel has released a 93-page report of recommendations for the activists and businesspeople putting together the state legalization ballot proposal for next year.
The bottom line of the report is that the “industry should not be California’s next Gold Rush.” Instead, the panel recommends that the focus of cannabis regulation in the state be creating a stable industry that substantially shrinks the black market while also keeping marijuana out of the hands of those underage.
“Perhaps the most important message from the report is what we are not recommending,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom told the Associated Press. “We are not recommending maximizing the amount of tax revenue, we are not recommending that we promote and create a large industry, and we are not promoting and recommending that the price of marijuana drop significantly. And the reason is all of those goals would depend on and encourage heavy use.”
The key to regulation, according to the panel, is moderation in all things. They want to keep taxes balanced enough so that newbie shop owners and cultivators can get in, while also allowing those with some years in the game to keep a stake in it.
And the exact level of taxes is a tricky one. As Keith Humphreys, a panelist and former White House drug control advisor, told AP, “High prices, which you can induce by putting a minimum price on or setting high taxes, are good for deterring use, especially by kids, but if they are too high the illicit market can still continue. So that’s a balancing act and that’s why one of the other things we emphasize is the importance of some flexibility in the process.”