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A pot tax?

July 15, 2009 |  4:06 pm

We all knew marijuana was a big business. But now, amid California’s latest and deepest financial crisis, the state Board of Equalization has put a revenue figure on the cannabis trade – and the potential benefit to government coffers.

A tax on pot sales in California could fetch as much as $1.4 billion, according to the board’s analysis in response to a proposal by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that would regulate cannabis much like alcohol.

Pro-pot groups ballyhooed the report as another sign that the long debate over marijuana legalization has entered a new, more serious phase. The Drug Policy Alliance said the report “amplifies the escalating national discussion of marijuana policy.”

Ammiano’s measure is staunchly opposed by law enforcement groups, but the lawmaker argues that it would generate much-needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end environmental damage caused to public lands by illicit crops and redirect police efforts to “more serious” crimes.

-- Eric Bailey in Sacramento