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Does Pot Have a Shot at Being Legalized in the U.S.?

Rhode Island, which legalized medical marijuana in 2006, is now wrestling with the next big question on that front: whether to become the first state in the U.S. to make pot legal for recreational use as well.

The motive? Money. The Associated Press reports that, if the proposal goes into law, wholesalers would be on the hook for a $50 per ounce excise tax, and retail licenses would cost $5,000 per year. And of course, all retail marijuana sales would be subject to sales taxes imposed by the cash-strapped state.

The AP reports the proposal would also allow individuals to grow up to three pot plants per person -- but only if they've paid $100 per plant. (How exactly that last provision would be enforced is unclear. Obviously, large-scale grow operations are relatively easy to sniff out, but if someone has four or five or six plants basking on the windowsill or in a greenhouse, they presumably aren't going to be living in fear -- or writing a check -- anytime soon.)

Meanwhile, on the Left Coast, budget woes are firing up a similar debate in the state of Washington. On Wednesday, Seattle's city attorney, a former federal prosecutor, and a city councilman who used to be a police officer all testified in support of a bill that would legalize the sale, possession and delivery of marijuana for adults over 21 years old -- and, in theory at least, generate millions of dollars from taxes on the product. According to the Seattle Times, the measure's lead sponsor, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, estimates that legalization would generate about $440 million in new revenue every two years through cannabis sales, taxes and licensing fees.

Still, not everyone's convinced that legalized pot is the cure for what ails state coffers. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, Don Pierce of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs observed that many people may simply grow marijuana themselves and avoid the tax hit. Said Pierce, "If I could make Jack Daniels in my garage and avoid paying the tax, I probably would."

Written by Law.com managing editor Paula Martersteck.

Posted by Laurel Newby on March 18, 2011 at 05:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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