Will California be the next state to legalise recreational cannabis?
The Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Initiative appears to be a slam dunk for inclusion on the state ballot in November this year, but will it pass muster when it comes down to the vote?
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Division in the ranks: LAPD Chief Beck says no, while ex-Chief is saying yes
Charlie Beck, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department feels that legalization would lead to increased usage of a drug that “causes significant mental and physical impairment” according to a recent article featured in the L A Times, which goes on to quote him as saying that he is still assessing the initiative, which runs to 62 pages.
“My basic view is we have enough problems caused by intoxicating drugs that are already legal” says Beck.
Steve Downing, a former chief of the LAPD holds a very different view: “The war on drugs was a failure, I should know as I once led it,” said Downing, who supported Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom at a recent launch of the Initiative.
In the same article, the Times also quoted him as having said “Our policies have done more harm to people and community than marijuana. We demonize people. We unnecessarily criminalized people.”
Downing is further quoted as saying that cannabis is “not a gateway drug”, and that dealing with cases of minor possession wastes thousands of hours of police time, while prohibition plays into the hands of street gangs and other criminals.
“When prohibition on alcohol ended it killed off the businesses of men like Al Capone. The same will happen here” added the former LAPD chief.
If the vote is “Yes”, the Tax Man is ready to roll . . .
In addition to existing excise duties payable by growers, a 15% state tax on retail sales of recreational cannabis is built into the Initiative, with the tax authorities in line for a windfall should the ballot succeed. Looking at the tax revenue that Colorado has been collecting from the sale of Cannabis can provide some perspective. Time Magazine quotes the figure for last fiscal year as being as high as $70 million – almost twice that of alcohol, which produced $42 million over the same period.
Business is ready for the green light
Taking another look at Colorado, it is clear that legalisation and regulation of recreational cannabis has caused a massive spike in business revenue since it was introduced there. The total volume of sales of both medicinal and recreational cannabis taken together, were up more than twice on the figures from the 2013/2014 fiscal year, reflecting the same growth as the collected tax.
It is not just the Cannabis industry that sees the benefits of an increase in revenue, but the greater business community also stands to gain as more people are employed, and demand for industrial growing and processing space increases.
An article published in March 2014 by the Denver Post reported that Denver was experiencing an unprecedented demand for premises suitable for large-scale grow operations, with commercial real estate tracker Xceligent Inc quoted as having estimated 4,5 million square feet of warehousing space being used for cultivation or processing at that time. In reply to the heavy demand on appropriate space, lease prices alone had already increased by up to 400%.
It’s all up to the voters
Whatever opinions the police and business may hold, it is the residents of the State of California that will ultimately decide whether this Initiative succeeds, or if the bid for legalisation of recreational cannabis in California fails once again.
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