In the July 16 edition of The Los Angeles Times, Professor Mark Kleiman explains legal and market-based reasons why the legalization and taxation of marijuana won't be an answer to the state's budget shortfall.
Now that California's billion-dollar " medical marijuana" industry and its affiliated "recommendationists" have made marijuana legally available to any Californian with $75 and the willingness to tell a doctor that he sometimes has trouble sleeping, why not go all the way and just legalize the stuff for recreational use as proposed in Proposition 19 on the November ballot? Then we could tax it and regulate it, eliminating the illicit market and the need for law enforcement against pot growers. California would make a ton of money to help dig out of its fiscal hole, right?
Well, actually, no.
There's one problem with legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis at the state level: It can't be done. The federal Controlled Substances Act makes it a felony to grow or sell cannabis. California can repeal its own marijuana laws, leaving enforcement to the feds. But it can't legalize a federal felony.
Mark Kleiman is professor of public policy at UCLA and the editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. His latest book is "When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment."