Cash for Kush?

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  Cash for Kush?

Posted by CN Staff on October 31, 2009 at 14:31:17 PT
By Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune 
Source: Contra Costa Times 

California -- Just in from Stockton, Mary parks her car and enters the downtown Oakland coffeehouse — but she hasn't come all this way for a cup of joe.Instead, she peruses a menu of dozens of strains and preparations of marijuana, all grown in California, all taxed, all legal. Producing a wad of cash and proof of her age — but no doctor's note — for a fragrant ounce of "purple kush," she departs a satisfied customer, perhaps grabbing a snack at a nearby restaurant before hitting the highway.
This could be California's near future, what with three marijuana-legalization initiatives in circulation for the November 2010 ballot. A legislative bill is pending as well, although it's being revamped by its author.Groups such as the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Marijuana Policy Project favored waiting at least until 2012, when a presidential vote might mobilize a younger, more progressive electorate. But these measures' proponents believe shifting attitudes and the economic crisis make 2010 the time to act.They say legalization makes fiscal sense as well as moral sense — ending the centurylong practice of criminalizing a widely used substance that's less harmful than alcohol, America's legal drug of choice. They tout an immediate, massive savings in state and local law enforcement and corrections costs, and perhaps significant new revenue; a state Board of Equalization study found California could reap $1.3 billion a year from licensing and taxing what's already its biggest — albeit off-the-books — cash crop, if the federal ban on marijuana is lifted.But many in law enforcement contend whatever money is saved and made wouldn't be worth the harm done to communities. Measure of Movement  Of the three ballot measures seeking petition signatures, the one with the most money and buzz behind it would legalize personal cultivation and use but would let local governments choose whether to allow commercial cultivation and retail sales of up to an ounce at a time, creating a patchwork of "wet" and "dry" cities and counties."It's up to the local jurisdictions for what works best, just as we have alcohol laws," said co-proponent and Oaksterdam University President Richard Lee, who could see his business — providing "quality training for the cannabis industry" — grow exponentially if his measure passes.Co-proponent Jeff Jones directed the now-defunct Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative and now runs its successor, the Patient ID Center, in Oakland and Los Angeles. They've hired a professional petition drive management firm, and went in expecting to spend about $1 per signature."We got 206,000 in the first three weeks, so that's about 32 percent in 14 percent of the time," Lee said. "We think we'll be done maybe a little after Thanksgiving at the rate we're going. People have been ripping the petition blanks out of our hands, they're so eager to sign them."But would marijuana be sold in coffeehouses, in dedicated stores, in liquor stores or in a neighborhood drugstore? Where and when could one smoke? What kind of advertising would be permitted? Could California employees of national companies be fired for testing positive for cannabis? All these questions and many more would be left up to state and local lawmakers.Lee hopes places that choose to allow, regulate and tax commercial sales — most likely the more liberal, coastal areas at first — would adopt a "coffeehouse" model like Amsterdam's, which proliferated for a while in Oakland under California's medical marijuana law. Such businesses balance sensitivity to the community with knowledgeable customer service, better than impersonal mass-market retail sales, he said.  Nation vs. States  The wild card is federal law, which still bans all cannabis cultivation, use and sale. The Obama administration advised federal prosecutors last month not to pursue medical marijuana patients and providers adhering to their states' laws. But while health is often constitutionally considered to be within states' purview, interstate commerce and control of dangerous drugs has been federal territory, and there's no telling whether the first county to authorize a big, commercial farm growing marijuana for recreational use would see it immediately busted by the Drug Enforcement Administration.All the measures' proponents hope legalization in California — a state comprising about 12 percent of the nation's population, and a higher percentage of its agriculture and commerce — would lead other states and eventually the federal government to do the same. Until then, California once again would be a trailblazer, with all the potential headaches accompanying that distinction.Those headaches would include increased drug abuse and its accompanying crime, according to law enforcement officials who testified at an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing Wednesday in Sacramento. Committee chairman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, in February introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana cultivation, sales, possession and use by adults, regulating it somewhat like alcohol; Wednesday's hearing was to gather input as he rewrites the bill to address concerns raised this year.Officials from various law enforcement agencies and associations testified that legalization under any scheme could lead to more, not less, use by children; more people driving under the influence, causing more injuries and deaths; decreased worker productivity that could hurt the economy; and the continuance of a thriving black market. California Peace Officers' Association President John Standish said there's "no way marijuana legalization could protect or promote society — in fact, it radically diminishes it."After the hearing, Sally Fairchild — deputy director of the Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, who had testified on behalf of the California Narcotic Officers Association — said a wet-and-dry county scenario like that envisioned by Lee and Jones' measure would be "unenforceable" as a practical matter. Any county choosing to regulate commercial cultivation and sale will become "the dope dealer for that region," fueling rampant black market operations.  Cops Aren't Only Critics   Some say Lee and Jones' measure doesn't go far enough. Dennis Peron, a proponent of 1996's successful medical marijuana ballot measure, Proposition 215, recently likened limits set by Lee and Jones' measure to a hypothetical law allowing only one bottle of wine in a home: "These limits guarantee confusion, harassment and black marketeering forevermore."There's no exception from the prohibition on "smoking cannabis in any space while minors are present" for parents in their homes, he noted in a recent statement. "We don't lock up parents for having a glass of wine with dinner, and we certainly don't tell the kids to leave the house for the purpose of consuming any other substance, so why start with cannabis?"And taxation would maintain cannabis "as the most expensive, blatantly overpriced product on the market thus forcing most people to choose cheaper, more dangerous drugs," Peron wrote. "Surely we can do better than this. How about just legalizing it?"  Alternative Views  Another proposed ballot measure seems closer to that scenario. One of its proponents, San Francisco attorney James Clark, was helping Lee and Jones draft their measure when he hit upon what he believes is a better plan.Lee and Jones' limits on personal cultivation and use encourages "very much a commercial model, very much keeping prohibition alive," Clark said, while his proposal seeks to "make this like soybeans" so anyone can grow and use as much as they want for themselves, which he believes will actually reduce demand in the long run. Commercial cultivation and sales would be licensed and taxed; Clark envisions big farms furnishing cannabis products to retail outlets — perhaps liquor stores, perhaps drugstores.Clark said his measure "was never meant to be a really viable petition," lacking funding and full-time staff members, but "we're really starting to get traction. "... If our growth continues to be exponential, it's possible we'll make the ballot." He acknowledges, however, that Lee and Jones' measure is more likely to qualify.John Donohue, 84, of Long Beach — a marijuana user since 1946, embittered by his five arrests for the drug — offers another measure, co-authored with longtime marijuana and Peace and Freedom Party activist Casey Peters, of Los Angeles. Donohue said they tried to keep it simple — specifics of taxation and regulation would "just have to be worked out in the process" — and hoped people would get behind it, but their petition drive has stalled as Lee and Jones' measure gets most of the exposure."(We are) giving various interviews and telling people what our position is and hoping we can start a movement," he said. "The main point is: Stop arresting people for a non-crime. I have bumper stickers that say, 'Show me the crime.'"‰"  The Next Budweiser?  Ultimately, any legalized marijuana scenario will have pluses and minuses, says Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy and director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at the UCLA."How much different does it look than today? You don't have to get a phony doctor's recommendation," he said. "How much bigger would the market be than it is today? There's no way to tell."But Kleiman predicts it would be bigger, especially if commercial advertising — print, online, radio and television ads, billboards, catchy jingles — becomes commonplace."Do we get brand names? You can imagine this becoming like the liquor industry," he said. "I don't think it's the end of the world. But if we go the whole commercial route, I think you will have more drug abuse."If a million more Californians take up marijuana use, "we'll have another 100,000 pretty screwed up on it. Being screwed up on marijuana might not be as bad as being screwed up on alcohol, but it's still bad enough," Kleiman said. "Unlike some people, I don't think the stuff's harmless."Yet, with careful regulation and steps to avoid commercialization, California could do far worse, he said. "Do I believe the state could get half a billion out of this (in taxes)? Yeah I do. Do I think it could also save a couple of hundred million (on law enforcement)? Yes, probably."The Plans To Legalize Pot Assembly Bill 390: Introduced in February by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, it would legalize marijuana cultivation, sales, possession and use by people 21 and older, regulating it somewhat like alcohol. A license to grow for sale would cost $5,000 to start and then $2,500 to renew each year, and a $50-per-ounce tax would be placed on retail sales. Ammiano said he hopes this would bring upward of $1.4 billion per year for drug abuse prevention efforts. No taxation would occur unless the federal marijuana ban is lifted; otherwise, the bill's only effect would be legalization of personal cultivation and use. Ammiano held the bill in committee this year, and is now rewriting it to put it forth again in January.The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010: Proposed by Oakland marijuana activists Richard Lee and Jeff Jones, it would legalize personal possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and up to 25 square feet of cultivation per home. It also would give local governments the option of whether to permit, regulate and tax commercial sales, a system akin to show alcohol is or isn't sold in "wet" and "dry" counties in some states. This seems to be the measure to watch; the proponents say their petition drive is surging, and its endorsements include that of Oakland mayoral candidate and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. For details, go to: http://www.taxcannabis2010.orgThe Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010: Advanced by proponents Joe Rogoway, Omar Figueroa and James Clark, all of San Francisco, it would legalize personal cultivation and use without limits, but would require -- not just allow -- state and local governments to regulate and tax commercial marijuana cultivation and sales. Tax revenues would have to be spent on education, health care, environmental programs, public works and state parks. For details, go to: http://www.californiacannabisinitiative.orgThe Common Sense Act of 2010: Advanced by proponent John Donohue, of Long Beach, it would require the Legislature to adopt laws regulating and taxing marijuana within one year, but would let local governments choose whether to also tax marijuana's cultivation, sale, and use. For details, go to: http://www.grasstax.orgSource: Contra Costa Times (CA)Author:  Josh Richman, Oakland TribunePublished: October 31, 2009Copyright: 2009 Bay Area News GroupContact: letters cctimes.comURL: -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #21 posted by truth420 on December 06, 2009 at 17:36:31 PT
seems fair enough
What I like about the bill is that it encourages people to grow their own. Most people would with that sort of taxation. If they hope to help the economy by taxing commercial sales, they're going to have to be much less greedy.
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Comment #20 posted by FoM on November 02, 2009 at 06:28:24 PT
I think it would be a good thing to treat cannabis like people making their own wine. I also believe for people who don't want to grow their own like making wine the tobacco companies will fill that void. Back in the 70s that is what people thought would happen. I know that is not a nice thought but it very well could happen that way. 
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Comment #19 posted by FoM on November 02, 2009 at 06:11:58 PT
In comment 15 you said concentrated forms and I wasn't sure I knew what that meant. Do you mean Hash? I'm just curious.
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Comment #18 posted by SnowedUnder on November 02, 2009 at 06:02:36 PT:
My two sense worth...
pun intended...Treat it like wine. I enjoy making my own wine, and I am getting pretty good at it. Cannabis Sativa or Indica or Hemp should not be any different. I would also like to see the convenience of retail outlets.
As for enforcement concerns of abuse, let's look at other nations with liberalized laws to see if there's been greater abuse. As I recall, consumption dropped and some nation's closed their prisons. Not good if your a cop or part of the war machine.
Thanks FOM 
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Comment #17 posted by Paint with light on November 01, 2009 at 20:56:06 PT
legal like alcohol, or soybeans
I sure hope we don't lose the momentum.This is the best the movement has felt in years.Finally, close to a majority of the population is seeing that, at the least, we should treat cannabis like alcohol.Finally people are learning that cannabis is a whole lot safer.After a period of time under the alcohol model, I believe we will finally move closer to the soybean model, but never equal to soybeans.That is unless someone comes up with a soybean that will give you a buzz.I think EAH's prices come pretty close to what I have imagined.I think the bell curve of price points could extend further in each direction with some lower and higher priced product at each end of the curve.The sales taxes paid on cannabis related products alone will create a large revenue stream.I am talking about entertainment(tickets, music, visual arts), smoking or other consuming related products, and food.The tax on twinkies alone could be a billion dollars.Sorry, I had to throw in an old stereotype there.Legal like alcohol, at least. 
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Comment #16 posted by kaptinemo on November 01, 2009 at 12:53:27 PT:
What EAH said
As someone who has friends who take their beer home-brewing seriously, and have helped them decant their 'product' into bottles, the fact remains that they pay taxes on what they brew courtesy of the tax on the 'makings' of the process. A legal home-grow cannabis operation would be exactly the same. Taxes on lighting, taxes on grow medium, taxes on medium containers, etc. People pay that, already. And who wants to pay for the 'lectric involved? It costs mucho moolah to run 1Kw lights. Energy's not cheap anymore. The die-hard grow-yer-own weed connoisseurs will do what they've always done, only they'll have vastly less risk involved. Fine. Let 'em. I'm too damn' lazy, myself. I'll drive to the local shop and pick up mine on Friday night after work. And I'll have lots of company.Like I said, the Devil gets his due, one way or another. And yes, it still rankles. But I'd rather pay the tax on legal weed than risk having my door busted down by adrenaline-tripping, MP5 waving, trigger-happy Darth Vader wannabes. This country can't take too much more of what that represents.
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Comment #15 posted by EAH on November 01, 2009 at 12:17:09 PT:
The Tax ?
There will not be legal cannabis without an excise tax. You won't be able to convince a majority to go for it without that.The alcohol model is in place, works and "they" understand it. The path of least resistance is to follow alcohols lead. It will mean some fact based assessments and sensible regulation. They need an accurate and serious means of measuring active molecule content just like alcohol content. Excise taxes will then be based on that. Cannabis is an extremely prolific plant. Grown legally it will produce vast amounts per acre, based on that, it's conceivable that the price could fall to under a dollar an oz for average quality, machine processed dried flower
product. BUT that is if you treat it like corn or soybeans. For hemp, sure, but 
for sativa and indica, no. I worked in the business for 30 years. In my estimation, in order to balance ALL the interests of ALL the players and be realistic in this society and economy, and understanding how people use cannabis, it should look something like this:
There will be little call for low grades, they only have existed because of prohibition. No more brown weed, or stemmy or seeded cheap junk.The lowest grades on the market would probably make sense at about $10-$15 per oz. The excise tax on that would be about 1 to 2 dollars. This is factory farmed, mass produced by machine product. The Yellowtail or Two Buck Chuck of cannabis.Then just like wine, there would be crafted, handmade, boutique quality. There would probably be a wide range here and the retail oz price would be from $20-$50 and based on THC content, the excise tax would be about 4 to 8 dollars per oz. Finally you have concentrated forms at prices of about $75-$150 per oz and 
taxed at around $10-$20 per oz. 
These price levels roughly equate to alcohol prices when considering the cost 
for normal usage dosages. 
 Like alcohol, a certain amount could be cultivated for personal use without a permit or excise tax and not for sale. A realistic amount that I could see being allowed would be about 10 lbs of finished dried flowers per year per adult per residence. I don't think the 
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Comment #14 posted by schmeff on November 01, 2009 at 09:49:46 PT
Sinse-able Pricing
If the regulatory powers simply add a normal sales tax, such as is currently added to other agricultural products like potatoes and cucumbers, there will still be plenty of revenue for everyone. (In Oregon we have no sales tax. ;)Revenue will come from other sectors of the cannabis industry as well. Jobs will be created, and cannabis-industry workers will be paying payroll taxes and growing the economy. Not a bad deal for an economy is such a dismal state as ours.Great to see you here, Kapt'n.
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Comment #13 posted by Hope on November 01, 2009 at 09:46:09 PT
John Tyler
I think you're right.At some point the realization is going to have to come to them, that this is about ending unnecessary violence and corruption... as well as them getting some running money into the tax coffers and to stop wasting what they have.If government stops arresting people, spying, and breaking into people's homes they will decrease one side of the violence quotient, but if they don't undercut the black market economy with a juxtaposed, non-prohibitively expensive, and reasonable structure, they will have failed to shaft that black market economy or even harm it. If the underground market can still make a risk worthy profit, a large enough one, by undercutting the overtaxed and overpriced and over prohibited item, they will. If they can't undercut the legal price, tax and all, and still make a considerable amount of money... they won't do it.
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Comment #12 posted by kaptinemo on November 01, 2009 at 08:55:21 PT:
Some wisdom from a Founder
"“An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy.” - Daniel WebsterAnd yet, as much as it rankles my lower-case "l" libertarian sentiments, the Devil will always have his due. A tax on legal cannabis is inevitable, but it must also be sensible. And that will be dependent upon an equally sensible retail rate.Tobacco taxes are high because of the innate addictiveness of nicotine. Those who must have their 'fix' will pay it. But cannabis is nowhere near as addictive. It's users can stop without the kinds of misery that a nicotine addict experiences in withdrawal.So, what will be the market rate of legal cannabis? I would assume that it would be commensurate with alcohol. Which would in turn imply a relatively low price. Otherwise, the authorities will experience what happened in Canada a few years back with the hiking of the tobacco tax creating a huge black market in bootleg cigarettes.The market will be the final determinant as to what amount gets charged for cannabis once it's legal again. And the tax will be determined by the retail price of cannabis. It's yet another reason why those who profess such faith in the free market - but who maintain that cannabis must remain prohibited - don't deserve much credibility...or respect. 
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on November 01, 2009 at 08:46:14 PT
John Tyler
I believe we should always be honest and tell the truth. The truth is the tax is way out of line. When people can grow their own no tax should be charged at all. Most people have at least a small backyard if they own their own home. If they grow inside under lights there still should be no tax. Can a person share home brew with friends? If they can there still shouldn't be a tax on sharing homegrown cannabis. 
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Comment #10 posted by John Tyler on November 01, 2009 at 08:20:35 PT
$50 tax
The $50 tax is way too much. Two dollars an ounce would be very generous. This is political dickering. It’s just trying to see what the selling price is for support from political holdouts to get their vote on legislation. Some politicians can’t seem to understand that this is an industry. It runs from farm to retail outlet. $50 and ounce for a product is totally unsustainable. No one will see the sense in paying a $50 tax on a $10 or $15 purchase. It will be moderated.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on November 01, 2009 at 08:14:29 PT
The tax of $50 an ounce idea really seems like it isn't coming from someone who understands supply and demand. When it's legal and it can be grown everywhere the supply will flood the market and the price will crash. Sometimes I think they are trying to lure politicians into it based on greed rather then reality. 
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Comment #8 posted by schmeff on November 01, 2009 at 07:44:31 PT
Death and Taxes
I agree FOM. The $50 an ounce tax seems to be based on a 'contraband price'. Should cannabis be re-legalized, it won't be selling at the same high prices that it does now as a contraband product. Current high prices reflect the risk factors of producing contraband.HerbDoc has well explained the economics and overhead of producing the 'Dom Perignon' of medical-grade connoisseur cannabis. But let's face it, growing yer own stone is not rocket science. For thousands of years, humankind has been enjoying the benefits of this miracle herb without high-pressure sodium lights, CO2 enrichment, or the knowledge of plant genetics.Plant genetics have produced some killer strains of recreational cannabis. One would suspect that the 'ditchweed' of the future will be considerably better than the ditchweed of the past. If it's legal, won't Johnny Hempseeds all over the country be spreading the love?Forget paying $50 an ounce in taxes to the same 'government' that has been jailing us for the past 80 years.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on November 01, 2009 at 06:00:38 PT
charmed quark 
The $50 tax on an ounce really bothers me. I do not understand why they want this since it will make the black market continue and the price will never become affordable to those who are on a fixed or low income.
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Comment #6 posted by charmed quark on November 01, 2009 at 05:37:01 PT
Upside of Act?
"The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010" allows both individuals and commercial ventures to grow cannabis. Even with the high tax, shouldn't this bring down the price? There will be very little black market risks if this act goes into effect, and those risks ( of arrest and crime) are a major driver of price.Although, I do agree, that with a $50/ounce tax the price will never come down to less than $100/ounce.The state tax on a fifth of liquor is less than a dollar - although it is actually higher when you take into account liquor licenses and so on. Why should cannabis be so much higher?A fifth contains about 25 drinks. An ounce of cannabis has about 100 "highs" if it is good stuff. So I think $10/ounce would be greedy enough. Although this brings up another issue. Since the tax is per ounce, you pay the same tax whether it is ditch weed or the finest quality stuff. So this tax is going to push people away from the lower quality but easier grown stuff.What also worries me is that taxes seldom go down. So if they put this tax on cannabis, it may be there for all time.
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Comment #5 posted by GeoChemist on November 01, 2009 at 04:55:19 PT
This isn't even worth addressing, but............
"Officials from various law enforcement agencies and associations testified that legalization under any scheme could lead to more, not less, use by children; more people driving under the influence, causing more injuries and deaths; decreased worker productivity that could hurt the economy; and the continuance of a thriving black market."
Following these moron's logic, the regulation of alcohol doesn't keep it away from the children? Come on. Another reason I have zero respect for law enforcement, it pisses me off and is an insult to my profession when people of a much lesser intelligence try and out smart those with superior intelligence.
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Comment #4 posted by GeoChemist on November 01, 2009 at 04:50:12 PT
"Those headaches would include increased drug abuse and its accompanying crime, according to law enforcement officials who testified at an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing Wednesday in Sacramento." 
Based on what? Studies not statements; this is one of the many reasons I have zero respect for these morons. Most cops aren't qualified to work the counter at McDonalds, but hey here's a gun. 
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Comment #3 posted by EAH on October 31, 2009 at 17:07:25 PT:

My line in comment #1 should readThis is a really badly conceived and written measure just AS Peron says.
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on October 31, 2009 at 16:00:38 PT

I agree with Mr. Peron.
"And taxation would maintain cannabis "as the most expensive, blatantly overpriced product on the market thus forcing most people to choose cheaper, more dangerous drugs," Peron wrote. "Surely we can do better than this. How about just legalizing it?""
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Comment #1 posted by EAH on October 31, 2009 at 15:09:31 PT:

getting it right
"The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010"This is a really badly conceived and written measure just as Peron says. I can't believe it is doing so well. This will NOT end prohibition or arrests."The Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010"THis is way better, but still lacks some specifics, I really wish this was the leading one."The Common Sense Act of 2010"Hard to say about this one, I don't trust legislators to get it right though.
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