To Legalize Marijuana? - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

To Legalize Marijuana?

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By: Anna Laurel

The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 will be on the November ballot.

Faced with a $20 billion budget deficit and strained state services, California voters will decide if legalizing marijuana will put money in the state's coffers, or be something they'll end up paying for down the road.

"There's no adults who are in treatment programs that decided years ago when they were younger– hey, I want to be in treatment.  I want to be in drug rehab.  Nobody planned for that,"says Adolescent Treatment Supervisor David Bethea.

Bethea works with teenagers with substance abuse.  But he's seeing kids hooked to smoking pot as early as 9 years old.

"If you damage your brain and begin to use before the age of 21, and you haven't been able to develop your brain yet, you make wrong choices constantly and never understand why."

The measure allows licensed retailers to sell up to one ounce at a time.  Sales would be a new source of tax revenue for the cash strapped state.  Political analyst Don Larson believes the cost to fight the federal government, could cancel out what's brought in.

Larson says,"There will be all kinds of legal ramifications that will have to be dealt with in this situation.  The tax benefit would be negligible as to the cost of this."

The proposal only allows 21 and over to buy, and bans smoking in public or around minors.

But Larson says, "Alcohol is still illegal for adolescents under the age of 21.  We know that a lot of adolescents start drinking before the age of 21."

According to the state board of equalization, California's annual pot crop is worth nearly $14 billion.

So, are voters left to put a price tag on the unseen future?

Larson sees the investment in kids' futures.  He says, "I have so many adolescents that smoke marijuana and their school grades are totally reflective of that.  How do they get along with their parents?  They don't."

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