Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pot and Movies: Wouldn't Cheech and Chong be pleased

As Mendocino County's experiment with embossed zip ties for legal medical marijuana plants seems to be proving effective even raising some revenue, Oakland marijuana legalization advocates have taken the first step towards a broader legalization.

The pro-legalization Richard Lee, president of Oaksterdam University has filed a proposed ballot measure with the California attorney general's office. It would allow persons over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce and homeowners could grow marijuana for personal use on garden plots up to 25 square feet.

This comes fresh on the heels of an overwhelming favorable vote in Oakland Wednesday on a 1.8% gross receipts tax on sales in permitted medical marijuana dispensaries within the City. This should raise about $300,000 a year for the City's tight budget.

Medical marijuana sales generate about $18 million a year in state sales tax. The cash-strapped status of the State of California has caused serious discussion about further legalization and taxation of what is considered the North Coast's largest (in value) agricultural crop. It is expected that the Assembly later this year will take up a bill that would further legalize and tax marijuana.

Perhaps this approach should be considered at the national level in order to aid Mexico in the fight against the drug cartels by reducing their income. According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle headlined Mexican growers having big pot year in state:

Mexican drug traffickers have expanded their marijuana-growing operations in California parks as state and local governments have tightened spending and slashed jobs and services.

Law enforcement officials say the traffickers, taking advantage of the fact that there are fewer sheriff's deputies and rangers monitoring parks, are cultivating more pot than ever before. This year's multibillion-dollar crop is on pace to be the largest in history, said state officials.

In the meantime, efforts to reduce the outward flow of jobs in Hollywood are apparently producing some dividends. According to a Los Angeles Times article headlined 25 film, TV productions among first to get California tax credits:

The state is awarding $67.5 million in tax credits for the 25 productions. Amy Lemisch, director of the CFC, said those movies and TV shows will spend $347 million on below-the-line employees. Lemisch said she was confident the vast majority of that money would otherwise not have been spent in California.

"Based on my talking to these producers for some quite some time before they even applied, I'm confident most of these would not have shot here without the incentives," she said.

As previously noted here a very large number of jobs in California in and related to movie and TV production. California's share of movie production dropped from 66% in 2003 to 31% in 2008.

Stimulating growth in an old California industry and acknowledging the growth in a newer California industry are two ways to grow tax revenue. Pot and movies - wouldn't Cheech and Chong be pleased.

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