The State of California, struggling with a $19 billion budget deficit, is considering legalizing and taxing marijuana in a referendum on the November ballot.

Voters in the Golden State already voted in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana, but the new ballot initiative would allow anyone 21 or older to possess, share or transport up to an ounce of cannabis for personal use and grow up to 25 square feet per residence or parcel, regardless of their medical condition and without a prescription. Cities and counties would have the authority to regulate and tax marijuana.

A poll by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California found that 49 percent of voters support the initiative, while 41 percent are opposed and 10 percent are uncertain about it.

The California State Board of Equalization concluded last year that taxing marijuana sales would raise $1.382 billion annually for the cash-strapped state, based on a tax of $50 per ounce proposed in a bill introduced in the state assembly. That includes $990 million from the proposed $50 per ounce excise tax, in addition to $392 million in sales tax revenues.

According to estimates on the Firedoglake blog, the tax revenues could provide enough funds to hire 23,000 teachers, police officers or firefighters; pay for health insurance premiums for 100,000 families; cover the cost of tuition and room and board for 51,000 students a year at the University of California; or send every adult in the state a $50 “cannabis-tax dividend check.”

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