California…This Bud’s for You

October 6, 2010 at 1:10 am 2 comments

I guess it’s time for Californians to dust off their bongs and break out the rolling papers because Proposition 19, the proposal to legalize personal marijuana consumption for adults in the Golden State, is coming up for vote next month. Judging by recent polls, the proposition is gaining steam…or smoke. 

Results show that 52% of voters are backing the proposition versus 41% opposed and 7% undecided. In fact, the data shows Californians are supporting ganja more than they are backing the state Senatorial and Gubernatorial candidates (Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Carly Fiorina, Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman).

Proponents are fiercely battling the opposition in the remaining weeks before the big vote. Given all the controversy, I wouldn’t be surprised if pro-pot advocacy groups enlisted renowned rapper Snoop Dogg as a paid spokesman to support the cause. I can hear Snoop now, “Vote yes on ‘pot,’ but remember friends don’t let friends drive doped.” Alternatively, I’m sure Altria Group (MO), maker of the famous Marlboro branded cigarettes, wouldn’t mind getting into the profitable cannabis business. They could even hire ex-President Clinton, who could admit he “inhaled…and enjoyed it,” while consuming some cannabis legally in California.

Would Snoop and Bill Say Yes to Legalized Marijuana?

The Budding of Prop. 19

What was the genesis of Proposition 19? Well, this isn’t the first time the wacky weed debate has actually been put to a vote in California. Almost four decades ago a similarly titled Proposition 19 initiative showed up on the ballot. Was it a coincidence the same number was used…perhaps? On the bright side, more mature protesters will not have to break the piggybank to buy new Proposition 19 buttons and T-shirts. This type of recycling gives new meaning to the word being “green.”

From a broader political policy perspective, marijuana consumption is no small problem. An estimated $113 billion of pot is sold each year nationally, with more than 10% of that attributed to California weed smokers. A whopping 15 million Americans have admitted to using pot within the last month, according to one survey. Of all the marijuana smoked, around fifty percent of the illegal bud is said to originate from foreign sources, most notably Mexico, which is dealing with deadly drug cartels that are killing innocent civilians by the thousands and threatening our borders. Proposition 19 cheerleaders are quick to point out that the legalization of cannabis would remove valuable money from foreign criminals’ pockets.

Legalizing and taxing cannabis has the potential of raising billions for the state of California. We all know about the sad state of fiscal affairs for California ($19 billion budget deficit) along with the dismal financial shape of neighboring states – an estimated $137 billion in deficits over fiscal 2011 and 2012  (see The Next Looming Bailout). Contributing to the deficits is the overcrowding of our jails and prisons.  Ever since the “Just Say No” to drugs campaign, which started in 1984, prison populations have quadrupled – many of the prisoners being non-violent pot smokers.  So, why not collect some cash from the millions that are already smoking pot illegally and help reduce our damaging deficits and free up space for more violent criminals?

Calling All Sin-Consuming Hypocrites

I understand the opposition to cannabis legalization, primarily based on concerns relating to public safety, workplace productivity, and potential losses in federal funding, but if certain people are opposed to Proposition 19, I sure hope they are up in arms over the numerous other legal (but sinful) products and services that permeate our daily lives. If pot is deemed harmful and illegal by society, then where are all the picketers protesting this long list of other sinfully legal products and services?

  • Casinos/Gambling
  • Cigarettes
  • Lotteries
  • Alcohol
  • Prostitution (Nevada)
  • Guns/Hunting
  • Ho Hos/Twinkies/Sodas (Fat Tax)

The potential safety issue surrounding an increase in stoned drivers is a real one. However, if we have managed to reduce drunk driving, with the help of severe penalties, over the last few decades, I’m fairly confident we can keep slothful, Domino’s pizza (DPZ) loving, pot-smokers under control.

There is no shortage of controversy surrounding this political hot-button issue, but drastic times call for drastic measures. You may be against the legalization of marijuana, but if Proposition 19 passes in California, you may want to go long Domino’s, and short Nike Inc. (NKE).

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®  

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in MO, DPZ, NKE, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

Entry filed under: Politics. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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