California Could Raise $1 Billion From Legal Pot

Marijuana legalization hit the country by storm this election season. There were five states — not just California — that voted on the matter. With California legalizing recreational marijuana, this could likely be a tipping point for the national conversation on the matter. President Obama's Department of Justice hasn't prosecuted marijuana growth, sales, or consumption that is legal at the state level. Now with a state as large as California on board, it's worth figuring out how much money weed legalization will bring to California.

The amount may very well be staggering. The San Jose Mercury News reported that some $1 billion could be raised the first year that taxes are collected — not including sales tax. Prop. 64, which detailed the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act had more than one part.

Yes, it decriminalized recreational use of the drug, but a big part of the law's purpose was to bring the growth, sale, and consumption out of the shadows and raise tax dollars. That's why $9.25 for flowers and $2.75 for leaves per ounce are assessed to the growers and then 15 percent on all retail sales of the drug.

Operations director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, Ben Bradley, told PBS Newshour that about $12 billion in marijuana sales goes untaxed in the state of California each year. At 15 percent, that equates to about $1.8 billion. All of this money will go into a special fund, not the California general fund. The money would first be used to administer the regulation and licensing needed to run things.

After that it would go into drug education, prevention, and treatment. There are specific programs earmarked, like $2 million to the UC San Diego Center for Medical Cannabis Research for medical marijuana research. Another $10 million a year at first ($50 million by 2022) would go to support communities that have been ravaged by the drug wars in the form of grants. It would pay for programs like job placement and legal services. After that the money would be split 60/20/20 to youth programs, environmental protection, and reducing driving under the influence.

That's a big chunk of change — and while it must go to these specific issues, not propping up failing schools or other issues that plague the state, it is still an overall win for government. Plus local governments could add their own taxes if they wanted, on top of the state ones. So far, there's just a few that have moved to make recreational marijuana sales or growth illegal in their jurisdictions. San Jose is one of them, with a temporary ban, although possession or growing your own plants would still be fine.

So buy your pot legally and you can support California's tax coffers. Seems like a fair deal for not having to worry about the authorities every time you light up.