MARIJUANA SOLUTION TO CALIFORNIA'S DEBT?

POSTED: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - 10:11am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:23pm

A California state lawmaker says he has a plan to help get the Golden State out of debt. He wants to legalize pot for people 21 and over, tax it and use the tax money to help raise billions of dollars.

State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano says "I think here in California we understand $14 billion is something that can't be blown off. The state deserves to have a piece of it."

That's why San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is introducing legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana. He's not talking about medical marijuana, he's talking about pot used socially just like beer and wine.

Betty Yee of the State Board of Economics says "the revenue impact of this proposal will generate over $1.3 billion."

$990 million would come from a $50 per ounce levy, $350 million from sales tax revenue.

Marijuana is California's top cash crop, according to federal government statistics valued at $14 billion in 2006.

And it's a political hot potato.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996.

Lawmakers tried drug reform legislation in 2004 but that push never got off the ground.

We asked Hastings law professor Evan Lee what it would take to get such a controversial proposition passed this time.

Evan Lee says "it would take President Obama and Eric Holder to decide this is what we're going to do."

That's because the federal government can override state laws.

Evan Lee says "as long as federal prosecutors have made a decision they're going after people enforce the controlled substance act, there's nothing the state can do."

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