In 1996, California became the first state in the Union to legalize medical marijuana. In 2016, there are nine ballot initiatives, none of which currently are about legalizing it recreationally. Being the largest state in America, it has the chance to influence the marijuana movement more than any other state, and Governor Jerry Brown should encourage the people of California to do so.
While some, such as Jeffrey Miron, Stephen Duke, James Ostroski, and Ethan Nadelmann, have pushed for more than simply marijuana to be legalized (some sentiments of which includes the legalization of all drugs) marijuana clearly has the most momentum to be legalized recreationally across all 50 states. The biggest reason? We have a few examples of state success already in the nation to emulate in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.
The idea has been met with opposition: Paul Chabot, president of Coalition for a Drug Free California and Republican hopeful for California’s 31st District, blasted Colorado as an example for pot legalization: “California can examine Colorado’s failed pot legalization experiment as reason enough to say just no in 2016,” said Chabot.
Yet according to a MintPress News report on Colorado’s economy since the 2012 ballot was approved, $60 million dollars in tax revenue from marijuana alone was received by the state, property crime has decreased by 8.9%, and burglary rates dropped by 9.5%. What might be most inspiring, however, is that Colorado has both one of the fastest growing economies in the U.S. and the unemployment rate, citing a Denver Post report, is far below the current national rate at 3.0%, in comparison to the national rate of 5.0%. This is nearly a third of Colorado’s rate in December 2011, which was 8.1%.
If a middle-of-the-pack populated state such as Colorado can have this type of success, imagine the most populated state in the U.S. allowing for regulated, recreational use. Currently, California sits a tick above the national rate, with 5.5% unemployment. Former Facebook president and Napster co-founder Sean Parker is leading the movement to get a ballot vote in November on making marijuana recreationally legal. As a billionaire, Parker can fund millions to get the support necessary for the right to smoke pot in public in the Golden State, and plans to: in January 2016, he pledged $500,000 to help efforts for his initiative, which expects to be the most funded of all possible initiatives. This was followed by another $500,000 to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in February 2016, and AUMA now has $2.25 million in its pocket, which is higher than the total from 2010’s failed Proposition 19. San Francisco Weekly claimed the Act is now nicknamed the “Parker Initiative” due to his contributions.
Parker’s donations went to a committee known as Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana While Protecting Children, Sponsored by Business, Physicians, Environmental and Social Justice Advocate Organizations. The long-named committee calls for a measure that California regulators predict could pull in up to $1 billion in new revenues for the state. The measure’s plan imposes a 15% state excise tax on marijuana’s retail sales, with state cultivation taxes of $9.25 per flowers ounce. Medical marijuana would be exempt from some taxes. The drug would be legalized for adults only, likely beginning at 21, similar to Colorado’s legal age to consume, smoke, and own cannabis.