July 21st, 2009
07:02 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Tax Pot?

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Tonight, voters in Oakland, California could take the battle over medical marijuana to a new level. Should it be taxed at city dispensaries? That's the question on a mail-in ballot.

If "Measure F" is approved, Oakland would become the first city in the country to tax pot directly. The idea actually came from the dispensaries. They see the proposed 1.8% tax as a way to help Oakland with its more than $80 million cash shortage. But there's another reason they're backing the measure. We'll have the details on their agenda. And, would the city even get a big cash boost from the plan? We'll break down the numbers for you.

Not everyone likes the idea. "With the state in dire straights in finances and the country looking for ways to pay down debt, looking at illegal drugs is the absolute wrong thing to do," said Paul Chabot of Coalition for a Drug Free California

What do you think of "Measure F"? Should it pass or fail? Sound off below.

Also tonight, Pres. Obama's fight for health care reform. He's not backing down under GOP opposition. Today at the White House, Mr. Obama said Republicans "who openly announce their intentions to block this reform" would "rather score political points" than confront the ailing health care system. But, keep in mind, Democrats also can't seem to agree on your coverage. We'll have the raw politics.

And, we'll take you to Cambridge, Massachusetts where charges have been dropped against Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. Police have issued a statement calling his arrest - while breaking into his own home - regrettable. Was it racial profiling? We'll let you be the judge.

Join us for these stories and more starting at 10pm ET. See you then!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (166 Responses)
  1. Eric

    Tax pot? About time! Hemp has been a staple in this country since its conception and will continue to be; legal or not. The legalization and taxation of pot could very well be the economic boost our country needs right now..... and for those "drug free coalition" groups, take your heads out of your a**es and fight against alcohol and tobacco abuse if you're really trying to save lives!

    July 21, 2009 at 10:45 pm |
  2. Julie

    I totally would support legalizing pot and using the tax revenues generated to at least partially pay for healthcare.

    Congress needs to stop the rhetoric and focus on the solving the issues. They are in "analysis paralysis." Start with small steps, generate successes, fix any deficiencies, and develop a roadmap for improving our healthcare! Doing nothing definitely isn't the answer.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:45 pm |
  3. Obee

    It's not just pot, it's hemp. The seeds are a good source of biofuel, but because pot's illegal, this stuff isn't grown here.

    All drugs should be legal, regulated and taxed. We should be looking at the drug problem as a health and education issue, not a law and order issue.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:44 pm |
  4. Jrg

    wrt taxing pot: Of course it should be legal and taxed just like alcohol. The reason it is a schedule 1 drug has nothing to do with its pharmacology but everything to do with class and race.

    wrt Professor Henry Louis Gates: No it was not racial profiling. A report of a possible break in is called into 911, the officer arrives and finds the front door open and jammed. He asked the person he finds there to step outside (he doesn't know he is the owner) and show him some ID. All Gates had to do was show a picture ID with his address on it, case closed "sorry for the inconvenience, have a pleasant evening Professor". But no, Gates has to get in the officers face about it and then claim its due to him being black. Give me a break. I ran into the same thing a few years back on an airplane (pre-9/11). A black guy across the aisle from me was giving the female flight attendant a bunch of crap about "well you could give me your number and yadda yadda". She thought maybe he had a few too many and called someone to come back and talk to him. That all ended fine, they guy was allowed to stay on the flight etc, no big deal. But after it was all over he looks at me and says "you know that was because I'm black". Yea right, everyone else is focused on getting seated and getting off the ground on time, except you who are giving the stewardess all this "oh baby you look so fine" carp, and when she complains its due to you being black, not due to you just being an jack-ass. Sure racial profiling occurs, and it should not be tolerated, but white folks do not have a monopoly on acting like morons.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  5. Carol Peters

    legalize and tax it just like the "other legal drug" - alcohol.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  6. arthur robins

    The question is not whether it should be legal, or whether it should be taxed. The question should be, "Why isn't it legal and who is stopping it from happening and why?" Some very powerful and influencial people have stopped this from happening for some reasons, for a very long time.. How to overcome this is the real question.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  7. txleadhead

    It's the largest cash crop in several States. Reefer madness just ain't working anymore. You had to be a moron to believe it anyway. Where did they come up with that stuff. Idiots.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:42 pm |
  8. Kristyn

    I think it's a good idea to pass "Measure F" so legislatures and citizens can see exactly what taxing marijuana can/will do. If it helps to bring in money to the Oakland government, then it'll show skeptics that cannabis isn't the evil they once believed. A larger legalization could also help bring down the street crime associated with illegal dealers.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  9. Shawn from Menlo Park, CA

    Pot should be taxed and it is ridiculous not to tax it. The argument that the sky will fall if pot is legalized and taxed is a preposterous. For example, an argument often stated regarding what would happen to society if it were legalized, is that "more" people would do it and create societal problems as a result. So, how come this isn't already an issue?

    More than 4 in 10 Americans have tried it by 'high' school and depending on the study you review, 10% or more could be regular smokers. Where are the drive by shootings on pot? Where are the thousands of stoned drivers being arrested on weekends?

    In 2007, 47.4 percent of the 1,841,182 total arrests for drug abuse violations were for marijuana - a total of 872,720. Of those, 775,137 people were arrested for marijuana possession alone. What a waste of money and effort to keep this illegal.

    The only reason this is still illegal is the pharm industry, period.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  10. michael thomas

    the health care system needs over hauling. this new thing might be the best, but the US now is not the best either.

    as for the doctor getting arrested, its hard to say unless you were right there. the officer might have been having a bad day and said some things in a not so polite way to an older gentleman like mr. gates. but also mr. gates might have been over reacting as well. so its hard to have an opinion unless you were there watching the scene. but i have noticed as a black male that when we get "loud", which by the way is a term i have never heard a consistent law enforcement definition for, and start to question police officers, things quickly get awkward and irrelevant charges start becoming reason for arrest.... so on that "loud and tumultous" charge, id like to pull the race card...

    July 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  11. James

    Annie Kate, the USA has such a bad infant mortality rate since it uses the WHO legal definition of a birth while countries such as France do not count live births and several other birth abnormalities. Data mining can falsely lead to any statistic against and for the reform, please keep it fair.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  12. galvodog6

    yeah, tax it...just like regular cigarettes... so the price will go thru the roof... in NYC, as much as $8 per pack is in taxes. A nickle bag will cost 2 or 3 sawbucks..

    July 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  13. John Lennon

    Marijuana is no worse than alcohol. It is not addictive and it does not ruin peoples lives. There is nothing wrong with smoking Mary J at home by yourself or with friends. Marijuana should be legal. Do it for America.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  14. Justin Weiss

    Marijuana should be taxed. California is broke. Marijuana users should pay a sin tax similar to alcohol and tobacco and it would put a dent in California's budget problems.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  15. Larry

    I think taxing medical marijuana is a great idea to raise money in our cash strapped state. Why on earth would we refuse a couple of billion in taxes only marijuana users pay?

    July 21, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  16. Katie

    Do you really think that taxing pot will make money? Pot being illegal hasn't stopped people from smoking it. Why would they buy legal taxed pot when they can get illegal non-taxed pot?

    July 21, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  17. David

    Yes, they need to tax marijuana in Oakland. They need to legalize it and tax it across the country, or at least allow states dictate policy on marijuana. Here's why:

    1. The government should have no right telling me what I can or can't put in my body.
    2. Prohibition is not working. It's been illegal since 1937 and we still consume large portions of it every year.
    3. It's considered the biggest cash crop in the U.S. and it's untaxed.
    4. We spend billions on drug enforcement to arrest drug offenders (lots of them are arrested for marijuana) and we spend even more on imprisoning them.
    5. It would not only save money by reducing the need for law enforcement and prisons, but it would also deal a huge blow to violent drug cartels.
    6. Alcohol is no better, and may be worse, and yet we socially accept it.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm |
  18. Chris

    Legalize and tax it! Stop this "War on Drugs" crap that we cannot possibly win. This is a loosing battle as we are attacking the wrong end of the problem. Trying to stop the production when there an obvious demand is just down right stupid.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm |
  19. Albert R - Colorado Springs, CO


    I am neither for/against the marijuana issue. However I would ask of you to consider the broad implications.

    This would seem to me to be a veiled attempt to allow a freedom, then to tax a freedom. What kind of precedent does this set for our Local, State, or even Federal Governments. i.e. We criminalize what was a freedom (years ago), then legalize it, then tax it. In the same spirit of Freedom of Speech, where would it end? A slippery slope? Or the Magical Elixir to whatever ails the next budget shortfall...?


    July 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  20. Mark

    I think Oakland is making progress in a positive way with their Prp F. As for Healthcare reform, it is about time. Don't let the ads scare you. If done right it can be a good thing. People scream about socialist healthcare but fail to come up with good ideas of their own.

    I think it is also time we start looking to legalize the use of hemp. I know people are thinking but hemp is marajuana and it's a drug. No hemp is a plant. If used right it can supply wood, oil, cloth, paper and much more. For years we have been paying farmers NOT to use land to help support the prices of wheats, grains and other products. Why not pay them to grow something we can all use benefit from? We could stop cutting down trees and start farming hemp to use in building and textiles. Imagine a house where the wood lasts for 50+ years. Imagine having a renewable fuel source without having to damage forest lands by drilling. Hemp has so many wonderful uses and you can't get high from smoking hemp because it is not marajuana.

    Also, the way to make a good health plan is by making sure you have good doctors to work in it. The way to do that is to help people who wish to go into the healthcare profession. Pay for part of their education with the understanding that they will work for X number of years in a public clinic or hospital to pay back that money for their education. Socialist medical plans can work if you use your head and not the dollar in planning.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  21. Ed B

    Seriously, its about time people get with the fact that this is the 21st Century! Marijuana really needs to be reconsidered as a banned substance. Alcohol DOES lead to death and liver disease, tobacco is PROVEN to cause cancer and contribute to a host of other health problems. Yet both can be legally purchased at almost EVERY store. Marijuana on the other is crucified as this horrible drug leading unsuspecting people slippery slope of doom... unless its prescribed by a doctor, then it can help cancer patients keep down food and help with an appetite.

    Im glad they are going to get to decide on it. The issue has been put down for far too long and our jails are FULL of people incarcerated simply because they were smoking marijuana.

    Legalize it! Tax it! Make the world a better place!

    July 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  22. Captain J

    Legalize it for Pete's sake. Jeez.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm |
  23. Sam

    Evening Buzz! LOL!!! What an appropriate name for this article...

    July 21, 2009 at 10:28 pm |
  24. Hendrik

    I wonder if Chabot realizes that drugs in california are already taxed – cigarettes...alcohol...

    There really is not reason behind the illegal nature of Marijuana, except perhaps the fact that it was done over racial motives to ban the usage among cheap, imported mexican labor around 1910...

    stop wasting money on marijuana prohibition, it's just not bloody worth it.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  25. Chris A

    We still apparently have not learned the lesson of Prohibition. Marijuana should be legal and regulated as we do with alcohol – restrict purchase based on age and quantity. If necessary, require a driver's license and limit total purchase amount, as drug stores in NJ do with pseudephedrine products. A whole new legal cash crop would be brought out of the black market. Tax revenues would be significant. We could release all the people currently incarcerated on marijuana possession or distribution convictions, and cut costs associated with keeping these people in prison needlessly. We would also take the entire industry out of the hands of organized criminals, and focus attention more on other more dangerous drugs and criminals. Marijuana is not lethal (unlike alcohol), and keeping it illegal is just ridiculous.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  26. Jay

    I don't smoke, but do support it not only being taxed but to also have it legalized in California. With budget cuts in this state and being the most powerful economic state of the 50, it should pass.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  27. Fred Thorne

    I am 100% for the passing of this initiative. I am hopefull that the innevitable success of the Pot Tax will echo across the country. We need to decriminalize marijuana, not just for the potential monitary value, but because there are countless people living in fear of getting busted for a simple creature comfort that hurts no one directly through the use, but lines the pockets of criminals.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  28. Nick

    Weed Rocks!

    July 21, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  29. rob

    That 1.8% tax would really help the state pay for teachers, firefighters, and policemen. It's better to see it going towards these people than the drug cartels.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  30. Austin W.

    Prohibition has never worked. The country is ready for a change.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:20 pm |
  31. Marc B.

    Henry Louis Gates. He needs to lose the attitude! A passing police officer sees a guy breaking into a house, asks him for some ID. He REFUSED TO IDENTIFY HIMSELF TO THE COP, and then spouts off about 'racism' when the cop arrests him for breaking and entering? How was the cop supposed to know it was his house, since he refused to identify himself? What a load of horse apples.....Move on, folks. There's nothing to see here.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:19 pm |
  32. Mike

    My employer closed their doors with out any notice, leaving me without a job and health insurance at the age of 58. I temporarily obtained health insurance until Wellpoint Insurance took over the company. Wellpoint issued me a letter explaining that my monthly premium will increase from $230.00 a month to over $1200.00 a month unless I file as a new insurer. Of course I filed as a new insurer but was denied health insurance coverage on the basis of mild hypertension and a cholesterol level of 230. Since then, I have recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer and I challenge any one to get a quote from any insurance company with a pre-existing condition such as cancer. The terrible thing is that this country does not have a alternative solution when Insurance companies deny health insurance. The insurance companies are the problem with our health care mess. They are interested in bottom line profits at the expense of human lives. Just read some of the articles at healthcarereform.org and watch the Bill moyers pbs broadcast with former cigna vp Wendel Potter. According to Mr. Potter, the healthcare industry is corrupted by Wall Street expectations and greed. Insurance companies do not think about individual people. They think about numbers and whether or not they are going to meet Wall Street's expectations. Aetna dropped eight million insured americans in one year because the numbers indicated they might be high risk. While I continue to seek full time employment, I have taken a part time job which does not offer any health insurance. I am one of the 72% of americans in favor of healthcare reform.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  33. Jen

    It should pass.

    Marijuana is no more harmful than cigarettes or alcohol – in fact I'd argue it's less so based on the evidence out there. I think we should take this a step farther and legalize it, and the reap the revenue on the taxes.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  34. Barbara

    Legalize pot nationwide, then tax it just like cigarettes are taxed. That would help all states.

    I have been unemployed for over 2 yrs and really don't have any health insurance. I found some when my COBRA ran out but it was well out of my price range because of a pre-existing condition. That is the main thing that prevents people from getting health insurance that is reasonable and affordable in my opinion. I know of others in the same situation with pre-existing conditions and can't afford health insurance. One is now on Medicare (arthritis) and now is fully disable but that took over 2 years to work its way through the system. And then when she was finally approved, it was 6 months before she saw any payment. So, yes, our system needs to be fixed.

    As to the prof from Harvard, I think they need to look to see who called 911. To me, it is really strange that a neighbor would call 911 when it is a neighbor trying to get in their own home.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:17 pm |
  35. Ervin Raab

    Well...here a thought. Since all the $$$ is going to "criminal" element, such as during Prohibition, let's just get it out in the air, and TAX it, like alcohol, cig's and all the other vices of the human condition.

    Ervin Raab

    July 21, 2009 at 10:17 pm |
  36. Todd

    Taxing pot is a fantastic idea. To decry the evils of marijuana is to cling to a stale outdated ideology. If you live in one of California's major metropolitan areas, your neighbors smoke pot, your coworkers smoke pot, your boss might even smoke pot. Lot's of successful functioning people smoke pot. If you think that the world is going to dissolve into a blob of unemployed lethargy because the city of Oakland becomes officially complicit with the millions of people already safely smoking cannabis, you'll be disappointed... just like that time you sat around on Y2K waiting for your computer to explode.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:15 pm |
  37. Katie

    Why not tax the pot if it's legal in California? I'd be happy to pay a tax if the government would legalize it and leave those of us who enjoy a smoke alone. I think pot should be legal, it's so much less harmful than alcohol, and the taxes on it would help the government.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:14 pm |
  38. Jay

    Tax Pot ?
    I think the farming industry could be saved by focusing on Pot cultivation.

    I am not a pot head nor do I drink much. I believe Pot could rival alcohol in tax revenue if the old boy tobacco network got out of the way.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  39. leebfree

    THIS IS A ridiiculouse question !!! look at all the money being spent on fighting marijuana coming in over the boarders, look at all the money being spent on this product leaving the country, look at all the money being spent prosecuting this product. Wanna have health insurance reform, TAX POT and lets reap the benifiets instead of bearing our heads in the sand. Its a HUGE cash crop, keep the money in the US on the pot AND tax it ,TAX it, TAX IT and put that tax money to great USE. ITS WIN WIN !!!!

    July 21, 2009 at 10:09 pm |
  40. Dennis - Indiana

    First of all, it's not taxing an illegal drug. Medical Pot is legal in California, so it's taxing a legal drug. Secondly, if it helps the deficit, then what's the big deal? I do not use marijuana, but at the same time I really don't see why we are still complaining about "Reefer Madness".

    July 21, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  41. Vince L.

    TAX IT! States all over the nation are going broke, Money needs to come from somewhere, why not tax something that has proven to make money. every little bit helps.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:06 pm |
  42. Hammilton

    That's easy to say. When you're getting questioned by a black cop about why you're in your own home, you'll feel a lot different.

    I sure as hell would, white cop or black cop, and I'm a white guy. I'm a gun carrying liberal, and I'd sure as hell feel indignant if someone was asking to see ID in my own home. I'd tell him to eff off and to come back when he had probable cause.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:05 pm |
  43. Peter

    America can not afford not to address this issue. People are doing it regardless. Never saw the government so slow to take our money.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  44. chris Lace

    Marijuana is not a drug, it's a plant.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  45. Tom

    It should be legalized nationwide and taxed. This is the only way out of this economic mess. It's legal in other countries, why not here?

    July 21, 2009 at 9:58 pm |
  46. joe

    tax medical marijuana or make it legal for those who dont have a card???

    July 21, 2009 at 9:58 pm |
  47. Gary

    I'd like to see pot taxed in L.A. County to subsidize the entertainment industry so my friends can have their jobs back.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:58 pm |
  48. Brad

    Pot should be taxed everywhere, not just California. The main focus SHOULD be on enabling pot to boost the economy. Although it should be the only "illegal" ..."drug" that can be taxed because it's safe. Never mind what the drug coalition says, those numbnuts don't know the first thing about marijuana. Why should anyone stand by and let alcohol and cigarettes be sold legally when its the very two things that cause 80 percent of deaths in America. Where in the world have you heard about someone dying from any incident by Marijuana? Are you serious? That's just retarded. Everyday on tv or in the newspapers there's always a DUI report.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:55 pm |
  49. Isabel • Brazil •

    Hi, Maureen!

    How long! How are you?

    What crazy story of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. I don't know what to think. He was arrested a broken his own home? If he were a white man the police have acted differently? Great thread.

    July 21, 2009 at 9:39 pm |
  50. Annie Kate

    Ads are already running on my cable against the health care – they use the same scare tactics as usual and compare it with Canada – long lines, waiting to get treatment, etc. I'm for a universal health care program that works like the health care in France does – they have one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world; the US is a dismal 37th. While I'm for universal health care I do think that Congress is making it harder than it needs to be.

    On the doctor arrested for trying to break into his own house – I think he is over-reacting. Once he proved ownership it was over. But if the police was driving by my house and saw someone trying to break down the front door they better stop and see what is going on and arrest if the circumstances are unclear. I'd rather be arrested than think the police are turning a blind eye to potential robbers. Would the doctor have preferred the police to pass on by and not ensure someone was trying to get in to steal and pillage??

    July 21, 2009 at 9:19 pm |
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