Don’t Cut Taxes On Weed. Increase Enforcement on Scofflaws

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Instead of doing its job, the state wants to cut taxes.

That’s the essence of a new legislative effort to cut taxes on marijuana being sold legally. The tax cut is meant to address a real problem: There are too many black-market illegal sales of cannabis and cannabis products, now more than a year into the transition to legalization. That’s hurting legal sellers, who are forced to charge more because they comply with taxes.

But a lower tax doesn’t really solve the real problem. The failure of the state and local government to enforce the laws and put the black-market people out of business.

That’s the paradox of legalization of marijuana—it requires more enforcement. And that means using the high taxes on the legal product to fund that enforcement.

Instead, legal weed has occasioned massive irresponsibility—from governments. Many cities in the state have banned legal weed within their borders, while failing to take enforcement action against very open sales by illegal dealers.

It’s not time to cut taxes. It’s time for cities and the state to do their jobs.

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