When it comes to legal marijuana, California is the prize to beat all prizes.
Four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) plus the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use within the last four years. But the Golden State could leave them all in the dust.
Reform groups are pushing to put the legalization question on the statewide ballot in November, and they appear likely to succeed. Public support for the idea hovers around 60 percent, so it would probably pass if they do.
But what exactly makes California so critical to the future of cannabis reform and to the industry that grows, processes, and sells the drug? The Motley Fool laid out a few of the biggest reasons.
The Size of the Economy
Separate California from the rest of the United States and the nation’s economy would still be the largest on the globe. But California on its own wouldn’t be far behind, ranking at No. 8 worldwide. That’s bigger than the national economies of India, Russia, Canada, and Australia.
In other words, legalization of marijuana would open the door to a massive commercial industry and untold billions in retail sales. It would far outpace any other cannabis market in the U.S., including markets that don’t even exist yet.
Californians could benefit big time, with huge tax hauls used to fund schools, healthcare, and other major state programs. But legalization would also create thousands of jobs, from farmers and retailers to consultants and financial analysts. That would be great news all around, in California but also in other parts of the country
California is Ready to Go
No other state can compete with California when it comes to an existing network for cultivation and distribution. The medical marijuana industry here is absolutely enormous, dwarfing even the fully legalized markets elsewhere.
There are already at least 500 cannabis dispensaries statewide, and as many as 1,000. Many operate in a legal gray area but could still be poised to morph into recreational pot shops as soon as the drug goes legal. The legalization vote, in other words, could take effect here faster than it has anywhere else. And that would translate into even more cash all around.
The ready and waiting legal industry would also make it faster and easier to crush the black market. A quick turnaround would create more competition, which would drive down marijuana prices, which in turn would put illegal dealers out of business.
Celebrity Will Mean More Money
California is home to Hollywood, and Hollywood is home to some of the richest, most pot-friendly names in the world. With that fame and wealth would come better financing for the legalization effort and a stronger commercial industry.
Tech billionaire Sean Parker, for example, is leading the campaign most likely to put legal cannabis on the ballot. He has already raised more than $2 million, much of it from his own pocket. Parker, of course, is best known as the founder of Napster and former president of Facebook. He could end up spending as much as $20 million by the end.
And that’s not to mention the big names likely to sell marijuana once it’s legal. Snoop Dogg, for one, has already launched his own line of cannabis strains, and many others may join him in the game.
These are just a few of the many reasons why voters should legalize in California. The bigger question may be, why wouldn’t they?