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Taxing Cannabis, by the numbers

by Wes Messamore, published

As the debate over legalizing cannabis via Prop 19 rages on, what follows are a few relevant figures:

420 - A globally-recognized euphemism for marijuana ...which originated in California (source).

1937 - The year cannabis was first prohibited in the United States (source). For more than a century of U.S. history before that, cannabis was legal and there were no violent drug cartels or gangs.

10 - The number of years since Portugal decriminalized all drugs; and the percentage of Portuguese over the age of 15 who have ever used cannabis, the lowest rate in the European Union (source).

39.8 - The percentage of Americans over the age of 12 who have used cannabis where it is still illegal for recreational purposes (source). In fact, TIME Magazine reports that "Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana," despite Portugal's entire decade of drug decriminalization.

7 - The percentage of the African American population in California (source).

22 - The percentage of California's marijuana arrests comprised of African Americans (source).

16,800 - The number of California teenagers of color arrested in 2008 for marijauna possession (source).

60,000 - The number of cannabis-related drug arrests in California each year according to former Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, who is now a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (source). Legalizing and taxing cannabis could end all those arrests, save the taxpayers money, and help police focus on catching truly dangerous criminals like John Gardner.

60 - The percentage of violent drug cartel money which comes from the sale of cannabis on California's black market, according to former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara. Prop 19 could cut off all this funding to violent criminals and instead put that money in the hands of peaceful, legitimate California growers and distributors (source).

>23,000 - The number of people who have died in Mexico's violent drug wars in the last three years alone as a result of the market distortions and perverse incentives created by U.S. drug prohibition (source).

>125,000 - The number of dollars Prop 19 opponent Dianne Feinstein has received from the beer, wine, and liquor industry over the last five years (source).

56 - The percentage of Americans who believe that marijuana should be treated the same or even less strictly than alcohol according to an AP/CNBC poll (source).

48 - The average percentage of Americans who approved of Obama's administration on the days the poll above was being conducted, meaning more Americans approved of cannabis legalization than Obama by a comfortable eight percent margin (source).

21 - How old you would have to be in the State of California to cultivate, possess, or use cannabis under Prop 19 (source).

51 - The percentage of voters it would take to pass Proposition 19 this November and end the prohibition of cannabis (actually, it's even less than that- just a simple majority of votes is all that's required).

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