Forget social justice, equality, and doing the right thing -- when it comes to getting it done, politics and policy are all about that money.
Backers of marijuana legalization have long argued that ending the war on a plant and lifting prohibition on cannabis means big money for California. And Attorney General Kamala Harris agrees with them.
If California legalized marijuana, the state would save "hundreds of millions of dollars," according to the Attorney General's office. That's on top of hundreds of millions more in potential tax revenue -- meaning legal weed could, conservatively, put California half a billion dollars in the black.
That's real money.
This isn't Harris being weed-friendly, either: this is an analysis required by law.
The estimate from Harris's office was published on Dec. 24, when the Secretary of State issued the ballot summary for the Marijuana Control, Revenue and Legalization Act, one of three -- and potentially four -- proposed legalization initiatives that could go before California voters in the fall (but the smart money is thus far on none of them making the cut).
Want to really have some fun? Wade into the differences between the various legalization propositions. The MCRL is somewhat middle of the road, compared to an initiative introduced by the Drug Policy Alliance that is considered conservative for a strict limit on how many plants an adult would be allowed to grow.
Then there's the the far-left, whacked out hippie initiative is the California Cannabis and Hemp Initiative, which demands everyone incarcerated for a marijuana offense be released -- which would also save hundreds of millions, the AG says.
None of the groups have reported major fundraising yet, and have only a few months to collect over 475,000 or so valid signatures from registered California voters, a feat considered impossible without millions of dollars to hire paid signature-gatherers.
Annoyingly, it's still anyone's guess exactly how much money California makes off of cannabis today: the friendly tax collectors over at the Board of Equalization last made an estimate on tax revenue from dispensaries in 2007, when far fewer were in business.