Where Would Legal-pot Road Lead?

Published May 17, 2009

Re “Governor asks: What if pot’s legal and taxed?” (Page A1, May 6): Facing a budget crisis of epic proportions, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering the practicality of legalizing recreational marijuana and taxing its smokers. A new Field Poll revealed that 56 percent of California registered voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana.

An analysis by the state Board of Equalization projects California would collect $1.3 billion a year from tax revenues and a $50-an-ounce levy on retail sales if marijuana were legal.

This strategy eliminates the “street tax” – essentially, the cost pot smokers pay for handling illegal substances and the attendant risk for suppliers and consumers. If marijuana were legalized, consumers would purchase their weed without the dealer risk and opportunity costs, but they’d certainly suffer sticker shock when the $50-per-ounce fee is levied and passed on to consumers.

Once tax-salivating legislators and federal and state bureaucracies legalize marijuana, how long will it be before they employ the tobacco strategy: Enlist the health care industry to mandate FDA-approved pot and start raising more onerous taxes on weed to discourage use by youths and adults?

– Ralph W. Conner, Chicago

The Heartland Institute