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Assemblymember proposes marijuana tax

Tom Ammiano proposed California Assembly Bill 390 in February 2009. This bill would legalize and tax California’s trade in marijuana, and supporters say it could help re-establish California’s economy.

According to a March 2 NBC Bay Area News article, AB 390 “would remove all penalties in California law on cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, or use of marijuana, natural THC, or paraphernalia for persons over the age of 21.”

If passed, the bill could generate about $1.3 billion per year from marijuana sales, according to a Feb. 25 Sacramento Bee article.

Legalizing marijuana would put the plant on equal playing fields with alcohol. This means it would be a taxed narcotic and driving under the influence would be prohibited, according to Sylvia Cochran in a Feb. 25 Associated Content article. Buyers would also have to get the marijuana from a licensed seller.

Bay Area News said the bill would place a tax of $50 per ounce. In underground marijuana sales, an ounce averages from $250 to $300, so financial experts said that taxing the crop will drop the price for buyers in the long term.

Supporters of the AB 390 want California to be the first state to regulate and tax marijuana legally just like it was the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996.

Betty Yee, the chairwoman of the Board of Equalization, estimates that there will be a 40 percent increase in marijuana use if it is legalized. Yee supports the bill because it will “empty jails of petty offenders nabbed for drug charges.”

872,720 people were arrested for marijuana-related charges in the U.S. during 2007, according to the Drug War Facts website.

Sandra Pederson has experiences with marijuana that range from working with California teens who use the plant to having family and close friends also use it.

Pederson said she supports AB 390 because the tax can be used to take money away from the black market, where prices fluxuate and funds are not taxed.

“The government could use the tax to get some pay back from the crop, and the bill will control the price, quality and quantity,” she said.

Critics of the bill said that it legalizes a potentially harmful drug.

Short-term side effects of using marijuana include an increased heart rate and blood pressure and a distorted sense of time, according to Web MD.

The website also says that heavy use of marijuana can lead to addiction; however, there is no proven link between using the plant and getting lung cancer.

Kristin, a current marijuana user who refuses to give her last name, wonders what will happen in the crime world if the plant is legalized.

“I think there will still be an underground source of cannabis, but maybe the violence will decrease because the demand from the underground will not be as high,” she said.

Until a decision is made, marijuana will remain a punishable crime.