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2009 Wis. L. Rev. 1349 (2009)
Legalizing Marijuana: California's Pot of Gold

handle is hein.journals/wlr2009 and id is 1361 raw text is: ESSAY
LEGALIZING MARIJUANA: CALIFORNIA'S POT OF
GOLD?
MICHAEL VITIELLO*
In early 2009, a member of the California Assembly introduced
a bill that would have legalized marijuana in an effort to raise tax
revenue and reduce prison costs. While the bill's proponent withdrew
the bill, he vowed to renew his efforts in the next term. Other
prominent California officials, including Governor Schwarzenegger,
have indicated their willingness to study legalization in light of
California's budget shortfall. For the first time in over thirty years,
politicians are giving serious consideration to a proposal to legalize
marijuana. But already, the public debate has degenerated into
traditional passionate advocacy, with ardent prohibitionists raising
the specter of doom, and marijuana advocates promising billions of
dollars in tax revenues and reduced prison costs. Rather than
rehashing the old debate about legalizing marijuana, this Essay offers
a balanced view of the proposal to legalize marijuana, specifically as
a measure to raise revenue and to reduce prison costs. It raises some
of the central problems with proponents' arguments, including how
their goal of reducing prison costs effectively undercuts their goal of
raising revenue. Additionally, it challenges extravagant claims of the
prohibitionists that legalizing marijuana will lead to significant
increases in marijuana use and attendant social harm. In the end, the
author offers a mild endorsement for legalization.
Introduction  .................................................................. 1350
I.  A .B .  390  ............................................................. 1351
II. The Likely Federal Response ..................................... 1355
III.  The  D ebate  .......................................................... 1362
A. Summing Up the Debate: More Heat than Light ......... 1363
1.  The  Good  News ........................................... 1363
*      Distinguished Professor and Scholar, Pacific's McGeorge School of Law;
B.A. Swarthmore College, 1969, J.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1974. I wish to
extend my thanks to my colleagues who attended our scholarship retreat where I
presented this Essay as a work in progress. I also thank McGeorge Professor Gerald
Caplan, my former student Darius Pazirandeh, psychiatrist David Mee-Lee, and clinical
psychologist Seymour Moscovitz for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this
Essay. Both Drs. Mee-Lee and Moscovitz have extensive experience working with the
mentally ill and drug users; neither supported my central thesis but offered constructive
criticisms of my tepid support of legalizing marijuana. Further, I want thank my
research assistants Cameron Desmond, Whitney McBride, and Lauren Knapp. I want to
extend special thanks to Mariel Covarrubias for her research assistance and for
coordinating the research efforts.

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