6. A State Agency to Tax and Regulate
marijuana purity and potency.

Why is this needed?
If marijuana is legalized, the public will expect the product to be as pure as any other product Americans consume, to have consistent levels of potency, and to be taxed to cover the cost of regulating the industry.

Most marijuana contains several contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, mold, fungi, and protozoans. (1) Estimates are that current marijuana grown in California for patients has a purity range of from 10 to 20 percent. High purity marijuana grown in Canada has closer to 30 percent purity levels. Marijuana from the Mexican cartels is from 2 to 5 percent pure. (2) If marijuana is legalized and sold to the public, controls to guarantee purity must be put in place.

In constant search of a “better high,” growers of illegal marijuana have developed more and more potent strains of the drug since the 1960s. Then, most marijuana had a THC content of about 2 percent. THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that produces the “high.” Today, THC levels exceed 10 percent and some strains have THC levels of up to 30 percent, (3) making them considerably stronger that hashish. In addition, levels of another marijuana chemical, CBD, need to be high in order to minimize the occurrence of short-term psychotic effects, particularly among youth. Through selective plant breeding, growers have reduced CBD levels and increased THC levels to make the drug more potent. A single agency can regulate the ratio of THC to CBD in commercial marijuana.

The RAND Corporation issued a report (4) in September 2010 which predicts that the price of marijuana will fall by 80 percent if the drug is legalized. Currently medical marijuana costs from $3000 to $4000 a pound. Basing its projections on current costs, the California State Board of Equalization estimated legal marijuana could bring in $1.4 billion in extra taxes in a state whose resources are seriously depleted. However, two months before the election (and after the RAND report was published), the board changed its mind, saying it couldn’t make any estimate of how much money legal marijuana would generate. (5) If the RAND researchers’ projections are correct, tax revenues from marijuana retail sales may be considerably less than the state’s projection.

This provision will establish a single state agency to regulate the purity and potency of legal marijuana and to tax all parts of the marijuana business—production, distribution, and retail sales.


1. Bossche HV, et al (1990). Mycoses in AIDS patients. Plenum Press, NY. 337 pp.

2. United States Drug Trends.

3. “Marijuana potency surpasses 10 percent, U.S. says.” CNN, May 14, 2009.

4. Kilmer B, Caulkins JP, Pacula RL, MacCoun RJ, Reuter PH. Altered State? Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets. RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California, 2010.

5. Hecht P. “State analysts can’t measure Prop. 19’s revenue potential.” The Fresno Bee, September 26, 2010.

Other Links to this Post

  1. Opponents of Marijuana Legalization Finally Noticed They're Losing the Debate | The Daily Chronic — February 28, 2012 @ 3:59 pm


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