Got Election? California & Massachusetts Ponder Pot Legalization Measures

CALIFORNIA: Passage in California, where polls show it has wide support, would make pot legal along the entire West Coast. Proposition 64 would allow Californians to possess, transport, and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes, and would permit people to grow as many as six plants. California’s Department of Finance has estimated that the state could bring in as much as $1 billion in tax revenues every year from legal cannabis sales if Prop 64 passes.

The state, the most populous in the U.S. with about 39 million residents, was the first to allow medical marijuana two decades ago. Californians have rejected recreational marijuana twice before, in 1972 and 2010. Support has swelled this time, with 60 percent of likely voters saying they will approve it. If ratified, the California measure would levy a $9.25 per-ounce tax on cultivated pot and 15 percent sales tax on marijuana retail products. Local governments could tax even more.

MASSACHUSETTS: Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg said he’s backing a ballot question that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state. Three thousand miles away from palm trees, endless sun, and Hollywood, Massachusetts’s November ballot question would let those 21 years old or older possess up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use and allow the home cultivation of up to 12 marijuana plants.

Rosenberg’s endorsement came on the heels of a reported $1 million donation by Las Vegas Sands Corporation CEO Sheldon Adelson. What is a Nevada resident doing getting involved in Bay State politics? Reports suggest Adelson lost a son to addiction and has another son struggling with dependence. Marijuana opponents dismiss the benefits, arguing that marijuana is a gateway to harder substances but News Munchies readers know marijuana is not a gateway drug and oftentimes, pot curbs opioid addiction.

Massachusetts voters decriminalized small amounts of marijuana through a 2008 ballot question, and legalized medical marijuana in 2012. Yet legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts means it may be available in Boston – a major metropolitan area along the Northeast corridor and the first major market for legal pot on the East Coast. Supporters believe “yes” to marijuana in Massachusetts would add geographical variety to the legalization map, and hopefully encourage other East Coast states to move in the same direction and perhaps build momentum toward ending federal prohibitions on the drug.

REALITY CHECK: In 2016, states have the opportunity to decide that they will not make it a state crime to grow, transport, and use small amounts of marijuana. But do they have the power? The federal government retains the authority to enforce federal laws in every state. The federal Controlled Substances Act makes it a federal crime to possess any marijuana. While more than two dozen states have laws allowing medical or recreational marijuana use, federal law continues to view cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. It remains to be seen what priorities the next president will have with regard to federal enforcement of marijuana. The current federal prohibition of pot is a large, green elephant in the room that no one at the federal level wants to talk about.

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