California brought in around $74.2 million in marijuana tax industry tax revenue during the second quarter, up 22 percent from the first three months of the year, in what the government said was a growing “trend toward complying with regulations.”

But the figures continued to show a much slower than expected start for what is expected to be the world’s largest pot market. Recreational marijuana sales became legal in California at the beginning of 2018, but medical marijuana is exempt from the state’s sales tax if the customer has a working medical marijuana ID card.

California became the first state to make marijuana legal, medical use only, in 1996, after statewide elections.

Investor’s Business Daily, a very respected business newspaper, in an article by Bill Peters reported last August that on Jan. 1, the U.S.’s largest and most populated state, California, oversaw the legalization of recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana in California has a 15 percent statewide tax on all recreational and medical cannabis products and additional local taxes and fees.

Michigan legalized marijuana for medical use in 2008 and Arizona did the same in 2010. Since then, these two states have recorded over $600 million and $400 million in cannabis sales respectively. DiPietro shows how legalization of cannabis for recreational use has opened a door to a massive, new source of revenue for state governments.

Not to be outdone by so many other states, New York state in 2014 passed the Compassionate Care Act legalizing marijuana for medical use.

Legislation to legalize adult marijuana use, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, has been reintroduced in each subsequent legislative session. In his Executive Budget for State Fiscal Year 2018-2019, Gov. Cuomo proposed a study of the economic impacts of legalization and the implications of continuing to prohibit use while other nearby states move to legalize.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, in a report issued in May of 2018, estimates that the legal adult use marijuana market at some $1.3 billion total at the state and city levels. That is billion with a B.

Stringer claims that the decriminalization of marijuana use has clear human and societal benefits. He claims there has been a decline in teenage usage of marijuana. I have not seen any such reports. He claims public health and safety concerns have been addressed. Again, what reports is he talking about?

Stringer argues that legalization of marijuana would eliminate criminal problems. The state would collect its taxes, marijuana users would be happy, and all’s well with everybody.

A pharmacist, Robert Mabee writing in March of 2018 stated that “legalization of marijuana has ramifications beyond the individual’s decision to smoke an occasional joint.”

Not really. As with alcohol, the potential for creating costs in excess of the taxes collected, Mabee argues, such as costs associated with treatment, injuries, loss of work, damages to property are likely to run millions more than the income collected.

Mabee writes that while we spend so many millions of dollars trying to stop people from smoking cigarettes, we now, for all the “money the state will take in” tax wise, will encourage the smoking of pot with all of its medical issues such as indirect smoke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Lung cancer, etc., all present and accounted for.

“Studies” have disclosed, Mabee writes, that the recreational use of pot can lead to long-term mental problems and harmful neurological effects.”

Alex Berenson, writing in the New York Times, that New York and New Jersey, are racing to join the ten other states that already allow recreational use of marijuana. We are told that some 65 percent of Americans candidates for president support ending federal prohibitions on it.

Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, in an article published in Drug Topics, a pharmacy trade journal, just one week later, makes the case for regulating marijuana. He argues that regulated statewide marijuana markets have provided an economic boost to numerous cities and states.

He states that marijuana poses a low risk of dependence to other controlled substances and is not a gateway drug to harder drug use and it has been consistently shown to be a safer substitute to deadly opioids.

The National Academy of Sciences says an estimated 9 percent of those exposed to cannabis ever exhibit symptoms of dependence, almost the same dependence liability associated with caffeine and far lower than the abuse potential associated with alcohol, tobacco and opioids.

While I do favor medical use of marijuana, I am watching the list of indications given approval for its use increase continuously, as advocates for its legalization find new “medical uses” for the drug, a schedule one narcotic under federal law. That means it is more potent than opioids.

As a pharmacist, I have seen upfront the methadone customer come into my pharmacy seeking methadone as a substitute for the opioids he/she was taking in place of opioids. A very sad picture.

The argument that one in five Americans live in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal does not make me want to have such a situation exist where my family would live. If everybody is jumping off the roof, does it make sense to follow them. I do not think so.

If I may quote Alex Berenson, “Marijuana’s risks are different from opioids; but they are no less real. Let’s remember that hard truth as we listen to promises that allowing the use of this drug will do no harm.”

Bertram Drachtman
Great Neck

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