Legal marijuana: a cure for state budget woes?

Legal marijuana: a cure for state budget woes? »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - Legalizing marijuana for adults could help plug holes in the state budget, supporters of legalized marijuana said Wednesday, but opponents warned of hidden costs.

In a time of tight budgets and a sluggish economy supporters said about $30 million could be raised in state revenue by allowing anyone 21 and over to buy marijuana from stores regulated by a newly created Oregon Cannabis Control Commission.

Madeline Martinez of Oregon’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is one of two petitioners wanting to put the issue before Oregon voters. The other is Paul Stanford who led an attempt to legalize marijuana 24 years ago – in 1986 – and was arrested that same year for an illegal pot grow in his home.

Martinez said one of their primary arguments for legalizing marijuana will be its benefit to the state’s budget. She said sales would be taxed and 90 percent of the revenue would go toward the general fund.

“Were losing so much revenue that our state could capture and put into our general fund,” she said.

But Chris Gibson with Oregon’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program said legalization of marijuana is a bad idea both socially and financially.

He cites assessments that have been made that put the real cost of legalizing marijuana at nine to one.

“For every dollar that comes in another nine dollars is going out to fund social service issues,” Gibson said.

He also said that in 2008 treatment admissions for marijuana abuse exceeded meth admissions for the first time ever. He also said parents have enough to deal with in keeping their teenagers away from alcohol.