Legalizing Marijuana In California Could Increase State Pot Prices

California already collects millions of dollars in sales tax revenue from the medical marijuana industry, but one California legislator thinks it might be time for another tax, and that means higher pot prices.

State Senator George Runner, a Republican and vice-chair of the state’s Board of Equalization, thinks marijuana users should have to pay for the damages caused by the pot industry.

“As a matter of taxpayer equity, the medical marijuana industry and its end users, rather than ordinary California taxpayers, should pay the costs of combatting marijuana-related crimes and other externalities.”

A recent visit to Northern California’s “Emerald Triangle” convinced Runner the state needed to find a way to pay for all the problems caused by the marijuana industry.

The “Emerald Triangle” consists of three counties: Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity; and accounts for 60 percent of the country’s marijuana.

Legalized Marijuana could bring higher pot prices
HEALDSBURG, CA - FEBRUARY 21: A man fishes from the banks of the Russian River near Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach Park on February 21, 2014 in Healdsburg, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The problem is all that marijuana growth brings additional problems like added crime and environmental damage, and Runner doesn’t think ordinary Californian’s should have to foot the bill.

Marijuana farmers growing outside in illegal operations are using so much water they’re sucking small streams and rivers dry and damaging local wildlife, especially salmon, in the process.

The marijuana industry has grown by leap and bounds as four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational pot use and 23 other states have relaxed restrictions. The nation’s marijuana industry is now valued at $3 billion.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 22: Coffeeshop Blue Sky worker Jon Sarro (L) shows a customer different strains of medical marijuana July 22, 2009 in Oakland, California. Voters in Oakland, California overwhelmingly approved a measure during a vote-by-mail special election for a special tax on sales of medicinal marijuana at the city's four cannabis dispenseries. The new tax rate of $18.00 per $1,000 in sales, up from $1.20 per $1,000, will generate an estimated $294,000 for the financially strapped city. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

While Runner opposes the recreational use of marijuana, he says the time when opponents could realistically hope to ban pot from the state is long past. Now, it’s the job of responsible legislators to put the tax burden on the correct people.

“There are increased law enforcement costs and tremendous environmental issues associated with pot growing. Why should all taxpayers be paying for this out of the General Fund?”

The state already collects $109 million in sales tax revenue, but Runner is envisioning an excise tax targeted specifically towards marijuana users. The tax increase would require approval from two thirds of his fellow state legislators.

California voters will most likely be asked to legalize recreational marijuana during the 2016 election.

If that ballot proposal passes, California will also most likely set up state run banks to help the marijuana industry transition from a cash business and make it easier for business owners to pay their taxes.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]