OR, CA, WA & NV marijuana efforts advance

BY Oregon Tax News,

Pot appears to be back on the docket in 2010, as four states debate legalizing marijuana and the impacts such a move could have on businesses and the economy.  Business owners are concerned that legalization will make them subject to new discriminatory lawsuits for not hiring workers who use marijuana. Some states however are hopeful that the legalization and the sale of marijuana will bring new tax revenue to the state during difficult economic times.

In Oregon, the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) and Oregon NORML have finished gathering the 1,000 sponsorship signatures needed for the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2010 (OCTA) to be placed on the ballot.  The OCTA, would set aside two percent of the profits from the sale of cannabis in cannabis-only stores for two state commissions that promote industrial hemp biodiesel, fiber, protein and oil.  The measure would legalize the sale, possession and personal private cultivation of marijuana.

People who want to cultivate and sell marijuana, or process commercial psychoactive cannabis, would be required to obtain a license from the state.  Adults could grow their own marijuana and the sale of all cannabis strains’ seeds and starter plants with no license, fee or registration.  Profits from the sale of pot would go to pay for state programs and drug treatment programs.  Proponents argue that the proceeds would generate millions of dollars toward public finances.

California has also managed to collect enough signatures to place a petition on the ballot by next November.  Advocates for legalizing marijuana in California argue that doing so, and taxing the drug, will generate much needed revenue for the cash strapped state,
potentially in excess of $1 billion per year.  The state is now facing a $22 billion budget deficit.  According to the Associated Press, the ballot proposal in California would legalize possession of marijuana up to one ounce for Californians age 21 and older. State residents could also cultivate small marijuana gardens, and local governments would decide whether or not to allow sales of the drug in their area.

Washington State lawmaker, Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), introduced a bill this month to legalize marijuana.  Under the bill, marijuana would be legal for persons 21 and older to use and possess, subject to regulations similar to those controlling alcohol.  Dickerson wants the legal pot to be grown by Washington farmers and sold in state liquor stores. Revenue from marijuana sales would pay for drug and alcohol treatment programs. Similar to other proponents across the nation, Dickerson believes Cannabis revenues will probably be comparable to those for alcohol, Dickerson said, which are at about $330 million yearly in Washington.

Nevada is the fourth state following suit, as a group called Nevadans for Sensible Marijuana Laws announced another petition drive that could let voters deciding whether or not to legalize marijuana.  Past petitions have failed, but this time the law would be narrower and would only allow adults 21 years and older to use and transport up to one ounce of marijuana. Nevadans would not be permitted to use the drug in public places.  Thirty-nine percent of the state’s voters supported legalizing marijuana in 2002 and 44 percent backed it in 2006, campaign manager David Schwartz said he was confident the majority will support the petition if it secures a spot on the 2012 election ballot.

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