Legal marijuana studied

A Nevada ballot initiative petition is now circulating to make marijuana legal and set up a regulatory system akin to tobacco or alcohol. The petition would go first to the 2011 Nevada Legislature, and if the lawmakers fail to act on it, voters in 2012 would decide whether to enact it.

There are a number of unknowns surrounding the issue, but a new study may suggest questions that need to be addressed. The Rand Corporation, a leading think tank, has issued a report on the possible results of making marijuana legal in California. The report found:

• The pretax retail price of marijuana would likely drop more than 80 percent, depending on the effect of taxes, regulation and enforcement.

• Consumption would increase, but it is unclear how much because it’s difficult to assess demand and the effect of a possible black market to escape taxes.

• Tax revenues are also difficult to predict because of the uncertainty of the federal government’s response to California legalization.

• Rand believes other studies that estimated enforcement costs of keeping grass illegal ($200 million to nearly $1.9 billion) incorrectly estimated those expenses, and the real cost is probably around $300 million.