Marijuana represents California’s largest value cash crop–if legalized, that is. According to Paul Starrs’ “Field Guide to California Agriculture,” and a report by Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson, California’s un-seized marijuana harvest in 2013 was worth $31 billion.
Says Harkinson, “that’s more than the combined value of the state’s top 10 legal farm communities.”
That figure is a raw estimate, but the potential fiscal impact of legalizing and regulating marijuana production and sales is undeniable. California NORML, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to reforming California’s marijuana laws,” has taken the research a step further.
The organization estimates taxed and regulated marijuana could yield the state $1.5-2.5 billion annually. These estimates include retail sales taxes, and incorporate comparisons to cigarette taxes and wine industry tourism revenues. CA NORML’s figures attempt to account for roughly $156 million annually spent on enforcing California’s marijuana laws. The figures also represent the impact of potential spinoff industries – hemp textiles, for example.
Skeptics need look no further than early returns out of Colorado. The State’s Joint Budget Committee recently projected $184 million in marijuana-related revenue from the first 18 months of fully legalized pot.
John Ingold, of The Denver Post, reported the newspaper analyzed recent crime data from Colorado’s judicial branch. They found “the number of cases filed in state court alleging at least one marijuana offense plunged 77 percent between 2012 and 2013.”
California and Colorado are apples and oranges, to be sure. But there is growing evidence that supports the idea of legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana in the Golden State.