There are no shortage of needy projects across the state in desperate need of money: schools, health care, roads. But should Proposition 19 pass in November, tax revenue from marijuana sales would go to fund "drug education and awareness programs" only, under legislation introduced Thursday by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
Most of the bill's language is identical to Ammiano bills AB 390 and AB 2254, which preceded Proposition 19 and withered on the vine in the state Legislature. They, too, included a clause that is the bill's only mention of where this pot money is to be spent: Proceeds from the $50 per ounce "substantial fee on the legal sale of marijuana ... will support drug education and awareness programs," the bill reads.
Does this mean that the state will enjoy the best-funded DARE program known to history, with some of the $1.3 billion going to pay for McGruff driving a Lexus? Not really, according to Quintin Mecke, Ammiano's spokesman.
The point of the current bill, tentatively titled ABX6-9, is to give the state a set of rules with which it can immediately put Proposition 19 to use, should it pass, Mecke said. The language can be altered by the Legislature in almost any way imaginable -- a jokester of an Assemblymember could introduce an amendment stipulating pot tax revenue go to fund just about anything -- but the important thing is that there's no extended lag.
"People learned the lesson from Proposition 215," said Mecke, noting that eight years passed between the passage of the state's medical marijuana ballot initiative in 1996 to when the regulations were passed in 2004. "There was a lot of dead time; the Legislature chose to ignore [Prop 215] rather than codify it."
And should Ammiano's new bill pass, it's not as if schools and hospitals would be left with no money. If the $50 per ounce tax went exclusively to drug abuse treatment, that would free up more general fund cash to pay for anything the Legislature wishes -- and that would be on top of whatever local taxation measures cities and counties could implement. Don't be surprised if we in San Francisco see a ballot measure proposing pot pay for schools at some point.
But this is all speculative. None of this means anything if Prop 19 does not pass. On that note, how is Prop 19 doing? If its backers are to be believed, quite well: The measure is ahead 47-38 percent in a Public Policy Polling poll, and up 47-42 in a Survey USA poll, according to an e-mail circulated by measure co-sponsor Jeffrey Wayne Jones.