Wednesday, May 12, 2010

State to Get $100 Million in Pot Taxes

While California begins to debate the consequences of taxing and
regulating cannabis for personal use, it's important to note that the
state is already taxing and regulating the product. California Board of
Equalization official Anita Gore told the Express last week that the
board estimates it collects anywhere from $50 million to more than $100
million in sales taxes per year from cannabis dispensaries.

That's on top of the millions of dollars municipalities like Oakland
have begun collecting in local taxes and fees. Gore said the board
doesn't have more precise figures because dispensaries are not required
to report the exact business they are in. Their taxes come in under
several categories, such as "retail" and "pharmacy," Gore said. The
board estimates the state can make $1.4 billion annually from fully
integrating cannabis into the economy.

Obama's $15 Billion Drug War

President Obama's Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske ended the decades-long
practice of calling federal drug prohibition efforts a War on Drugs in
2009, but the war's funding continues at Bushian levels. According to
the leaked draft of the Executive Branch's National Drug Control
Strategy for 2010-2011, the president will spend about $15 billion a
year on drug prohibition, in the same ballpark as his predecessor George
W. Bush, who spent at least $13 billion in 2007.

Prohibition reformer Russ Jones said comparing federal budgets year over
year is like comparing apples to oranges, though, because different
administrations measure expenditures different ways. Federal budgets do
not include state and local prohibition costs, which could bring annual
expenditures to an estimated $70 billion per year.

This year, the Executive Office will spend its biggest chunks of money
on the Drug Enforcement Administration ($2.4 billion), and the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ($2.6 billion). Though
funding has stayed the same, Obama drastically demoted the position of
drug czar from a cabinet level position to one that reports to an aide
of Vice President Joe Biden. And staff at the Office of National Drug
Control Policy recently leaked to Newsweek that the drug czar cannot get
on the calendars of the president or the vice president to announce the
national drug control strategy.

According to Newsweek: "Critics are raising questions about whether
Kerlikowske's office — with a staff of about 100 and a budget of
$400 million — still serves a vital function. Created by Congress at
the height of the drug war in 1988, the office has, at times, been led
by formidable figures like Bill Bennett and Barry McCaffrey.
Kerlikowske, who is barely on the public radar, disputes accounts that
he's frustrated and lacks access. As for funding constraints, he says,
'We couldn't have picked a more difficult economic time.'" But, he adds,
'we're beginning to move this thing forward.'"

The Obama strategy also hints at more needle exchanges to cut the spread
of AIDS, reforming the ineffective DARE program, and reviewing federal
laws that "impede recovery," like the devastating one that revokes
financial aid for students who get a marijuana infraction.

Ex-Drug Warrior Concludes Talks

Noted Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Russ Jones — a Bay
Area native and retired San Jose Police Department undercover narcotics
detective — ends his tour of Rotary clubs and colleges around the
bay this week. Below, an excerpt from our interview on the regrets of a
drug warrior.

Legalization Nation: Do you have any regrets? Specific cases that stick
in your memory?

Russ Jones: There is a case I like to point out. It was downtown San
Jose and another police officer had made a stop on three kids who were
touring San Jose on a Saturday night. You know, driving around in
circles like in American Graffiti.

And the officer pulled three kids out of the car and he didn't know but
one kid panicked and tried to swallow a small baggy of marijuana —
and I pulled up just to watch and assist if needed and didn't realize
what was going on either. And this kid died in front of us choking on a
bag of marijuana. So those kind of things bother me. See: he died
because of the War on Drugs. He didn't die because of marijuana, he died
because he panicked over these stupid laws we have.

We live now in an age where if you had some youthful indiscretions, you
can admit your youthful indiscretions and still become a cop, a DEA
agent, a lawyer, a professor, a senator, or you could even become
president. But if you are caught, you will achieve none of those and in
some states you can't even become a hairdresser. There something wrong
with that picture.

Jones speaks this week in Gilroy, San Jose, and Wednesday, May 19 in
Walnut Creek at the Diablo Valley Democratic Club.

No comments: