Marijuana Legalization Could Aid Local Shops

State Ballot Initiative to Legalize, Tax Cannabis May Provide Additional Business to Local Shops

Photo: Legalization of marijuana may come to California if a statewide initiative passes this fall. Berkeley businesses and dispensaries could benefit, should the legislation take effect.
Tim Maloney/Staff
Legalization of marijuana may come to California if a statewide initiative passes this fall. Berkeley businesses and dispensaries could benefit, should the legislation take effect.

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How do you feel about the legalization initiative?

UC Berkeley students answer whether or not they would support an California initiative to legalize marijuana for persons over 21.

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In a city known for its marijuana culture, a statewide initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana use slated for the November ballot could potentially benefit businesses and dispensaries in Berkeley.

If passed, the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010-approved for the ballot March 24-would decriminalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21, which could diminish the presence of the local black market and boost tax revenues through the potential increase in the number of organizations selling marijuana.

"If you legalize something and tax it, there's less of a reason for people to buy it illegally," said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

The black market could take a dip if sellers begin to legally distribute marijuana and abide by potential taxes and regulations imposed on the drug.

"Some of the people in the Northern California black market are making business plans to become legitimate as we speak," said UC Berkeley professor of law and public policy Robert MacCoun.

Existing businesses in Berkeley, such as smoke shops, could see increased business opportunities if the initiative passes, according to Sam Raz, a sales representative at Gypsy Trader, a smoke shop in Berkeley.

"I think it would actually help business," Raz said. "If they legalize cannabis, there will be brands manufacturing marijuana cigarettes."

The legalization of marijuana would offer businesses another product to sell, according to Raz.

Jimi Devine, patient outreach coordinator of the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley, said it is unclear how the initiative's passage would impact marijuana dispensaries, but added, "It's a fair estimate that some places selling medical cannabis (could) dispense to a larger population.

"I feel the regulations on the numbers (of dispensaries) would stay the same," Devine said. "Here (in Berkeley) we are already tightly regulated."

Devine added that thousands of people die as a result of violence surrounding cartels in Mexico that supply drugs to the United States and that the U.S. government expends significant resources in keeping marijuana illegal.

However, he said that as a nonprofit organization, the Cannabis Buyers Club is not concerned with whether or not they can sell the drug for profit.

In 1996, California Proposition 215 legalized the sale of marijuana for medical use to those holding identification cards. Should the measure pass in November, California will become the first state to legalize marijuana.


Contact Hannah Moulthrop at [email protected]

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