Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law three bills that will create a new state agency for regulating and monitoring the burgeoning medical marijuana industry. The laws will also help establish guidelines for the production, testing, and licensing of marijuana related products.
There are an estimated 1,250 pot dispensaries in California, selling about $1.3 billion dollars worth of marijuana per year. While California legalized medical marijuana all the way back in 1996, state laws have not caught up to properly regulate the industry. Importantly, the laws could be adapted to support full legalization, if necessary.
The move is being seen by a major victory for the nascent west coast marijuana industry. In Washington and Seattle, recreational marijuana use is now legalized, while the medical industry has taken off in California.
For states struggling with cash crunches, legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana is proving to be a potentially game changing source of tax revenue.
Colorado raked in approximately $70 million dollars in tax revenues last year, and indicators continue to point upwards in regards to revenue potential. Much of that money will be kicked in to Colorado’s $14.9 billion dollar expenditures on education.
Besides drumming up money through tax revenues, state governments can also reduce prison populations for marijuana related crimes, and also enforcement costs for trying to enforce the marijuana ban. With prison populations burgeoning, and governments looking desperately to cut costs, legalizing marijuana is becoming a fiscal choice.
Back in California, voters may have a chance to decide the matter for themselves next fall. A ballot proposal is currently being pushed to give voters the choice to legalize recreational marijuana.
Given the recent successes of recreational legalization efforts in nearby Oregon and Washington, the proposal stands a good chance of going through. Alaska has also legalized marijuana, along with the District of Columbia.
Numerous other states besides California have legalized medical marijuana. Marijuana has already been found to have numerous health benefits, and is especially useful for treating seizures and other difficult to introduce address diseases.
Marijuana legalization will almost certainly continue to gain steam across the country. Early indicators in Colorado are showing that legalization has largely been beneficial. Revenues are up, some crimes appear to be trending down, and the predicted “drug-pocalypse” has yet to materialize.