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A Modest Proposal for California


Legalizing pot could just be the first step on a slippery slope.

California, long the Land of the Loon, is now floating another loony idea: Legalize marijuana and tax it in an effort to close the budget gap.

A state slug, cranking his (alleged) brain up to 40 watts, made this calculation: A $50 per ounce wholesale fee, plus the state's 9% sale tax, would generate about $1.4 billion in tax revenue a year.

Never mind that tobacco is baaaad for you -- and the state would be in the business of flogging a product that makes people stupider than alcohol while gunking up their lungs.

And forget about the fact that, under federal law, growing, possessing, and selling marijuana is illegal. But you can be sure California's legislature would suddenly discover the virtue of Federalism, and maybe even the doctrine of original intent. After all, the Constitution doesn't say a word about Mary Jane.

The spadework to legalize pot may be underway. The Associated Press reports that there's a grassroots (oops!) effort underway to put a measure on the state ballot in 2010 that would repeal all state and local laws criminalizing marijuana. Skeptics might argue that repealing local laws throughout the state could conflict with the legislature's sudden infatuation with the 10th Amendment -- but never mind.

When it comes to searching out sources of tax revenue, why stop at pot?

Prostitution's now legal in some counties in Nevada, so why not make it legal throughout California? Think of the money -- not to mention the opportunity for a new bureaucracy to spread the word about AIDS prevention in state-sanctioned brothels.

Nevada also sucks away California's gambling dollars to Wynn (WYNN) and MGM (MGM) casinos in Las Vegas and Reno. This has to stop. No doubt, California would want to have state-run casinos to avoid the icky private sector. If so, California casinos would almost certainly be run as a jobs program, and would consistently lose money. Solution: Sell the state parks, and put the land on the tax rolls.

California already taxes the bejabbers out of gasoline in an effort to build mass-transit systems to get commuters to downtowns and employment centers that hardly exist outside San Francisco. Great idea! The state can always use more white elephants and higher taxes.

Why not tax natural food to create a program to enlighten those who eat stuff saturated with sugar? The program could be made permanent by taxing the California farmers who grow sugar beets.

California simply can't hold its spending to the rate of inflation. But why should it? After all, members of the state legislature need to buy votes with the taxpayers' money.
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