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CA Budget shortfall, what can Santa Cruz do?

California needs innovative solutions to resolve $35 billion shortfall
TO: California residents*

FROM: Paul Gessing, MPP legislative analyst

DATE: Thursday, Janury 2, 2003

SUBJECT: California needs innovative solutions to resolve
$35 billion shortfall; please see


California is on the brink of a financial crisis; the state's fiscal woes have been chronicled in newspapers throughout the state and in a recent New York Times article. State officials say that the budget shortfall could total $35 billion over the next 18 months, and they are proposing deep reductions in education, health services, and other
critical programs in an attempt to stem the tide of red ink. The consensus is that there is no single solution to the problem, so every option will be explored.

There are a few simple marijuana policy reforms that California should implement right away that can help the state fill in its budget hole.

First, the state should eliminate jail time for marijuana offenses. Currently, possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in jail at taxpayer expense, cultivation of marijuana is punishable by up to 16 months in jail, and selling marijuana is punishable by up to four years in jail. Throwing nonviolent marijuana offenders in jail costs taxpayers money and contributes directly to the current deficit.

California could also remove marijuana testing as a condition of parole and probation to save additional funds. According to a study by the California Policy Research Center, these drug tests and the costs of administering the tests add up to $3 per day for each of the state's 600,000 parolees. California could save millions of dollars each year just by dismantling a parolee and probation testing system that most state officials admit does not work.

California legislators should ultimately move towards implementing a system that would regulate and tax marijuana. This alone could earn the state $4 billion per year in tax money, on top of decreased spending on incarceration and other marijuana law-enforcement expenses.**

Please urge your state legislators and Governor Davis to consider any or all of these options to close California's $35 billion budget gap. This time of crisis demands innovative and original ideas. It is time for California's elected officials to examine options beyond raising taxes and cutting social services when budget problems arise.

Please visit to send an e-mail to your state legislators and Governor Davis asking them to reform California's marijuana laws to solve the budget situation.

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