Pubdate: Thu, 30 Jul 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Appeal-Democrat


It's taken as a given that California will have a recreational 
marijuana initiative on the ballot next year and polling indicates 
that it will be successful.

With that in mind, it was worthwhile having a panel consider the ins 
and outs of various ways of regulating it, even if nothing definitive 
came out of the study.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, chaired by Lt. Gov. 
Gavin Newsom, released its report last week. An Associated Press 
story about the publication was published at the time. And anyone can 
read the full text at the website,

According to that website, the panel's purpose was to facilitate 
understanding of the issues and policy questions of legalization, 
taxation, and regulation, and to identify a "range of solutions" for 
resolving questions.

What the panel wasn't planning and didn't do was make black-and-white 
recommendations on how an initiative should be drafted and the 
language that would set the stage for how the state would govern 
legalized marijuana, cultivation, marketing and use.

The panel was officially neutral. "Neither the Commision nor 
individual members will be asked to endorse marijuana legalization in 
general, or support particular solutions, ballot initiative options, 
or any positions taken by others ..."

The point of the report that got major focus was the admonition of 
the panel that there could be good reason to legalize marijuana, but 
that reason is not the creation of a new source of taxes. The goal 
should be creating a safer state by curtailing illegal operations.

That said, who's foolish enough to not believe that, if it is 
legalized, it won't be used as a new tax source (as well as a driver 
of some economic development). And we're betting that proponents of 
an eventual initiative will use it as bait for voters. But the 
probability that there will be a lot of tax revenue left over after 
paying for the regulatory activity? Probably a pipe dream.

We're all for getting rid of the criminal element that is involved in 
the black market for recreational pot, as well as the gaming of 
medical marijuana cultivation laws.

But, again, it's silly to believe that legalization of recreational 
marijuana, in and of itself, is going to solve more problems than it 
might create. Hopefully, we would be rid of the scary parts of the 
black market industry; but then we'll be faced with the more tedious 
chores of regulating growing, manufacturing, distribution and sales.

"The only regulatory tool we have over the illicit market now is to 
arrest people and put them in jail," said Abdi Soltani, the ACLU's 
executive director in Northern California. "When you switch to a 
legal market, you can test the product for safety, you can inspect 
the farms for their water use, and you can make sure the workers are 
paid a wage and not abused."

The report presents a series of options for legalization, rather than 
a detailed, solitary recommendation.

"Perhaps the most important message from the report is what we are 
not recommending," Newsom was quoted in the AP report. "We are not 
recommending maximizing the amount of tax revenue, we are not 
recommending that we promote and create a large industry, and we are 
not promoting and recommending that the price of marijuana drop 
significantly. And the reason is all of those goals would depend on 
and encourage heavy use."

And that's the deal with legal marijuana. It might create some jobs; 
it might create some revenue for growers. But boon to the public 
coffers? The complications of running a complex regulatory system are 
going to eat it up.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom