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When Marijuana is Legal

BRISBANE – What will happen if Californians votes this November to legalize marijuana use by any adult over the age of 21 years? Let’s ignore for the moment the vexed constitutional issues that will be raised if a US state enacts legislation that conflicts with federal law. Let’s focus instead on what may happen if the law changes as the referendum proposes.

If we are to believe the referendum’s supporters, all Californians will be winners. The change will legitimize marijuana’s de facto legal status since passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. It will thus reduce state expenditure on enforcing a widely violated law; remove marijuana growing and selling from the black market; enable any adult who wishes to use marijuana to do so; and introduce a tax on legal marijuana sales that will fill state coffers with revenue that formerly went to illegal growers (so long as there is no large-scale tax evasion).