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Arizona Lawmaker: Marijuana Tax Money Could Help Reduce Deficit

PHOTO: Legalizing and taxing marijuana could help reduce Arizona's projected $1 billion budget deficit, according to state Rep. Mark Cardenas of Phoenix. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
PHOTO: Legalizing and taxing marijuana could help reduce Arizona's projected $1 billion budget deficit, according to state Rep. Mark Cardenas of Phoenix. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
January 13, 2015

PHOENIX - If one lawmaker gets his way, marijuana will be decriminalized and taxed in Arizona, with the revenue helping fund education and other government services.

With the opening of the Arizona legislative session on Monday, Representative Mark Cardenas (D-Phoenix) says his legislation to tax marijuana could generate big money for the state's coffers.

"The tax per ounce on this proposed legislation is $50 per ounce," says Cardenas. "The last estimate we received estimated it would generate about $48 million for the state."

Under Cardenas' legislation, people age 21 and over would be allowed to purchase, possess and consume up to one ounce of marijuana. The lawmaker says the proposed tax is equal to about ten percent, which is much lower than Colorado's marijuana taxes, which can be 25 percent and higher.

Cardenas adds that Colorado's legalized marijuana law, which started a year ago, has generated millions of dollars for the state and has not led to any major increases in crime. He says Arizona could save even more money if law enforcement officers were not pursuing recreational marijuana users.

"Eighty-four percent of our state budget is tied up in education, medication, and incarceration," says Cardenas. "So if we have the ability to incarcerate less people, we can have further discussions as to where to best deploy the cost savings we're going to see from a program like this."

Cardenas says if his effort to decriminalize and tax marijuana is not successful this year, he plans to pursue a ballot measure on the issue in next year's legislative session.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ