Thursday, November 1, 2012

Can Colorado create a legal market for marijuana?

The Washington Post:

Back in 1932, Colorado voters took to the polls and approved Amendment 7, a bill that legalized alcohol consumption and ended prohibition. 

Now, 80 years later, the state is  weighing Amendment 64, a voter proposition that would similarly legalize marijuana.

Colorado voters aren’t alone: Oregon and Washington will take up similar measures on Tuesday. If any of the three voter propositions succeed, they would put the an American state left of the Netherlands on marijuana policy – and upend the economics of a contraband market.

“It would be unprecedented,” said Jonathan Caulkins, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University whose research focuses on marijuana legalization. “If one of these things passed, the United States would be right out there in the front of the liberal reform movement for drugs.”

Supporters of marijuana legalization in Colorado have done what nearly every other politician has done this cycle: Focus on the positive economic impact of their proposal. Talk about small businesses. And above all, emphasize job creation.

“There are hundreds of thousands of jobs on the table, and a great deal of tax revenue,” said Tvert, co-director of the Colorado Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “It would take profits away from drug cartels and direct them toward legitimate, Colorado businesses.”

In Colorado, Amendment 64 would put an excise tax on marijuana products. The Colorado Center on Law and Policy estimates the law would generate $46 million in new revenue while reducing law enforcement spending by $16 million. The law would direct the legislature to send the revenue generated by the excise tax to local school districts.

“When we saw alcohol prohibition fall, states began to repeal it first,” Tvert said. “They saw it was problematic and wasn’t working. The federal government followed a few years later.

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