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Ladywriter

Marijuana Could Be a Gusher of Cash If We Treated It Like a Crop, Not a Crime

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Economists estimate tens of billions for governments if we taxed pot like tobacco and stopped wasting money on the drug war.

If marijuana were legal but taxed like alcohol and tobacco, how much money could it bring in to cash-strapped state governments?

One 2006 study called cannabis the top cash crop in the nation, worth more than corn and wheat combined. It was the leading crop in 12 states, outstripping grapes in California and tobacco in North Carolina, and one of the top three in 18 others, coming in just behind apples in Washington and cotton in Georgia. So with states facing massive deficits, could reefer revenues help?

The answer is unclear, but it could be lucrative for governments, especially when combined with the savings from ending prohibition. As the U.S. marijuana market is illegal, there are no sales figures. Estimates of its size range from $10.5 billion a year to $113 billion. But three studies done by economists and policy analysts say ganja taxes could bring in anywhere from $2.4 billion to $31.1 billion in revenue, depending on how big the sales really are. About one-third of that would go to the states.

"There's not enough really good data on it, so it's probably best to look at it in ballpark figures," says Jon Gettman, a Virginia policy analyst who has worked with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Marijuana Policy Project. "But there's a consensus that there's an awful lot of marijuana out there and that it's very valuable."

"The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition," a 2005 study by Harvard economics professor Jeffrey A. Miron, makes the most conservative projections of the three studies. It calculates possible pot tax revenues at $2.4 billion. That's assuming that prices would drop about 25 percent under legalization, that pot-related economic activities were taxed at the national average of 30 percent, and that the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy's estimate that the domestic cannabis market is worth $10.5 billion is accurate. If herb were taxed more heavily, as alcohol and cigarettes are, that could bring in as much as $9.5 billion -- although excessive "sin taxes" could cause pot smokers to cut down or grow their own, diminishing revenues.

States with higher rates of marijuana use, such as California and New York, would collect a somewhat higher proportion of taxes than states with lower rates, such as Pennsylvania and Texas. Miron estimates that California would take in $105 million at ordinary levels of taxation.

However, others in the field believe that the government's $10.5 billion figure is absurdly low. Dan Hamburg, a former congressman from Northern California's sinsemilla belt, says the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors estimates bud production in that county alone at between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, worth far more than timber and grapes. California's medical marijuana dispensary owners claim they pay $100 million a year in state sales taxes.

The methods used to estimate the size of the marijuana market involve a great deal of speculation. Determining the supply involves taking the amount of domestic and imported marijuana seized by law enforcement, guessing what percentage of the total amount of homegrown and smuggled weed that represents, and extrapolating from there. Additional variables include how much a single plant can yield -- anywhere from less than an ounce to more than a pound -- and the retail price, which can be loosely sensed from the reader-contributed snippets in High Times magazine's monthly market quotations ("Chicago, Purple Kush, $450/oz") and the Drug Enforcement Administration's STRIDE index, which narcotics agents use to figure out how much to pay for the drugs they try to buy. Demand can be estimated from government and academic household surveys of drug use -- but these are far from specific, especially when you use the limited data on frequency of use to try to figure out how much people spend on pot.

"It's hard to match the supply-and-demand data," says Gettman. "Sometimes you don't know what it is, but you know what it's not." He estimates the value of the U.S. weed market at $113 billion, based on a supply of more than 14 million kilos, an average retail price of about $220 an ounce, and between 25 million and 40 million pot smokers.

That number seems high. It would require 40 million people to spend an average of $55 a week on weed. But Gettman cites United Nations data that has estimated U.S. cannabis cultivation at 10 million to 14 million kilos for the past several years. The federal government has reduced its estimate of domestic production from 10 million kilos in 2002 to between 2.8 million and 6.6 million kilos in 2006, but those figures, he says, are "complete politics." They're based on the assumption that law enforcement eradicates 30 to 50 percent of all the pot plants grown in the United States, and that plants average a pound each.


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                                               Look at the flowers

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as a 10 year mariuana addict. Not now but then, marijuana arrests the emotional development of users who become dependant. The drug war against it is wrong, I agree. In moderate use its fine, but using it to cope with life becomes the issue and as cliche as it sounds. You stop growing and youre ok doing nothing. Thats just my opinion, So yes, stop putting the money into the anti drug war find another method.

And stop the Iraq war part 2 and save multibillions. But I know you agree with that too.

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...

IQry6yle-DM


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                                               Look at the flowers

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That was an interesting watch until it started talking about "aliens from outer space"...


"Cool. I always knew Atheists would someday save The World."

- Fantomex

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thats what I thought too X'D

great facts until ET gave us weed


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The U.S.-financed War on Drugs has had savage results in Mexico, and now its president wants to decriminalize pot, cocaine and heroin possession.

If passed, Calderón's legislation would decriminalize up to 2 grams of marijuana, 500 milligrams of cocaine, 40 milligrams of meth, and 50 milligrams of heroin. To qualify, any individual arrested with those drugs would have to agree to a drug treatment program to address admitted addiction or enter a prevention program designed for recreational users. Those who refused to attend one of these kinds of programs would be subject to a fine.


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                                               Look at the flowers

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