California is at a low point.

With a $40 billion debt and the need to practically ration out water, maybe Californians just need to chill out and get stoned.

Or at the very least, profit from those who do.

And in the wake of a new stimulus plan aimed to benefit about 117 million families, California could decide to rise from the smoke and ashes by tapping into the undeniable market for marijuana.

Last Monday, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano proposed Measure AB 390, which would legalize the cultivation, possession, and sale of marijuana for anyone 21 and older.

Based on federal government statistics, marijuana is California’s top cash crop, valued at about $14 billion in 2006, which is nearly twice the combined value of vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion) — the state’s No. 2 and 3 crops. The fact that an illegal drug tops both of these mainstream crops deserves a slap on a wrist, followed by a standing ovation.

It’s about time we exchange some greens for all of that grass.

This law would inject about $13 billion a year in revenue into California’s empty coffers, and we are definitely in no position to refuse that kind of a drug deal. Ammiano’s proposed bill would charge growers and wholesalers a $5,000 initial franchise fee and a $2,500 annual renewal fee, as well as a $50 tax per ounce for retailers.

Aside from its medicinal uses, this may be one of the few times that weed can produce hugely active and productive results, as opposed to late-night Taco Bell binges and neurotic paranoia. Our beloved Mary Jane could to save our state from financial instability and put us back on the map again.

Besides saving us from our $40 billion debt, legalizing and taxing marijuana would make our lives significantly easier. Law enforcement and prison spending would drop, and police officers would finally be able to focus on the real issues, rather than chasing after a group of high-school kids with a measly 20-sack.

In 2007 there were almost 75,000 marijuana-related arrests in California alone, a number that has steadily increased since then. Legalizing pot would save millions of dollars spent on these arrests that could be used on our state’s educational and medical systems instead.

Since 1996, California was the first of 13 states to allow medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

Countless cities in California and across the nation have already started to make some progress, adopting laws making Mary Jane the lowest law enforcement priority. These cities include Denver, Seattle, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and our very own Santa Cruz. In 2004 Oakland took it a step further, requiring pot to be taxed if it is legalized.

And although President Barack Obama has said he does not favor legalization of marijuana, he has indicated that he would end federal drug enforcement agency raids on medical marijuana clubs in states that allow it.

After Obama’s inauguration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continued to carry out raids on medical marijuana clubs, despite Obama’s promise. However, this week, Attorney General Eric Holder stated the Justice Department will no longer raid clubs that are established legally under state law.

“I know the jokes are going to be coming, but this is not a frivolous issue, ” said Ammiano, a Democrat elected in November after more than a dozen years as a San Francisco supervisor. “California always takes the lead — on gay marriage, the sanctuary movement, medical marijuana.”

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