Report: Marijuana Legalization Could Save California $100 Million

By Oscar Pascual |

California potentially has millions of reasons to legalize marijuana.

The state’s Legislative Analysis Office (LAO), which researches the potential outcomes from proposed laws, released a report on Friday detailing the fiscal effect on the state if voters were to pass the California Craft Cannabis Initiative (CCCI) during the next presidential election.

The report predicts that the additional state and local tax revenues from legal marijuana production and sales could potentially net up to several hundred million dollars annually, although that wouldn’t be the only gain from legalization.

The LAO report’s main revelation is that the state could actually save money, and lots of it.

Taking the burden of enforcing marijuana punishments off the state’s justice system would set a drastic reduction to a number of criminal justice costs. Legalization would effectively reduce the prison population, as well as the resources needed to enforce pot-related offenses or handle cases in the court system. In total, the LAO predicts the reduced costs would range from tens of millions to potentially exceeding $100 million annually.

So not only would California generate millions of dollars, the state could cut spending just as much while doing so. And all this from a bill that’s not even considered to be the state’s best chance at legalizing cannabis.

The CCCI was chosen as the basis of the report’s scenario only because it was one of the first initiatives to be authorized by California. High Times reports that the initiative with the best chance of success is likely Reform California, which currently has support from the NAACP and advocacy groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project.

Although it wouldn’t be wise to count out the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, which has the backing of the ACLU and potential future governor of the state, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Both Reform California and the Blue Ribbon Commission have yet to submit a proposal, but are expected to have them ready by the end of summer.

One of the only caveats the report points out is interference from the feds. While the LAO believes millions of dollars can both be made and saved, the effects could vary greatly based on how fervently the government wants to enforce federal drug laws. With current Attorney General Loretta Lynch in place, legalization efforts could be all for naught.

While California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris believes the War on Drugs is a failure, the current U.S. AG Lynch still thinks alcohol is safer than marijuana.

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