The US state desperately needs to raise revenue
The state of California could legalise the sale of cannabis, generating much-needed tax revenue to help bridge its burgeoning $60 billion (£40 billion) debt.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced that he welcomes a public debate on the proposal, telling reporters it was time for an open forum on the issue.
‘I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalised marijuana and other drugs, what affect it had on those countries, and are they happy with that decision’, he added.
California was the first state to allow its residents to use marijuana for medical purposes, with licensed dispensaries a common sight since 1996 when the ‘Compassionate Use’ bill was passed. Twelve other states have since followed suit and decriminalised cannabis use for individuals who meet certain criteria.
Doctors in the golden state can prescribe the drug – which advocates claim boasts powerful pain-relieving properties – for ailments as diverse as migraines, arthritis, glaucoma and cancer.
Recreational use is still prohibited, although a recent poll of the state’s voters found 56% to be in favour of legalising the drug for non-medicinal use.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is proposing a change in state law, allowing all adults over the age of 21 to purchase marijuana, which would become a taxable item. If implemented, Ammiamo claims that $1.3 billion (£800,000) in revenue would be generated for the state.
Governor Schwarzenegger, who has admitted smoking marijuana in his youth, insisted that any decision would not be based on extra income for California, in spite of it having the dubious honour of the largest budget deficit of any state in the US.
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