As U.S. lawmakers look for ways to balance the national budget, a new bill formally introduced to the Washington, D.C. council this week may provide the answer as a major source of tax revenue.
The bill aims to legalize possession of marijuana for adults 21 and older, regulate sale and licensing, and tax the transactions in order to help generate much-needed tax revenue in the nation’s capital.
Initiated by Councilman David Grosso, the bill would eliminate criminal penalties for possession and potentially generate a large new revenue stream by authorizing the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to license business to produce, process and sell marijuana — with a 15 percent excise tax levied on its sale to go toward substance abuse prevention programs, WAMU-FM reported.
Colorado and Washington passed similar laws in 2012 and will begin issuing licenses later this year.
According to Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, marijuana prohibition has been a disastrous public policy failure:
“The District has the highest marijuana possession arrest rate in the country, with black residents more than eight times as likely to be arrested than whites. Despite spending millions of dollars to make thousands of arrests and ruin countless lives, marijuana is almost universally available. It’s time for a smarter approach,” he told WAMU.
With the majority of Americans supporting weed legalization, marijuana activists plan to place the issue on the ballot should the D.C. council fail to pass the proposed legislation.
Jodie Gummow writes for Alternet.com and is a contributor to the Metro Times.