California state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has announced the introduction of legislation to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcoholic beverages. The bill, the first of its kind ever introduced in California, would create a regulatory structure similar to that used for beer, wine, and liquor, permitting taxed sales to adults while barring sales to or possession by those under 21.
Estimates based on federal government statistics have shown marijuana to be California’s top cash crop, valued at approximately $14 billion in 2006 — nearly twice the combined value of the state’s number two and three crops, vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion) — in spite of massive “eradication” efforts that wipe out an average of nearly 36,000 cultivation sites per year without making a dent in this underground industry.
Independent experts from around the world, from President Nixon’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1972 to a Canadian Senate special committee in 2002, have long contended that criminalizing marijuana users makes little sense, given that marijuana is less addictive, much less toxic, and far less likely to induce aggression or violence than alcohol. For example, in an article in the December 2008 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Australian researcher Stephen Kisely noted that “penalties bear little relation to the actual harm associated with cannabis.”