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Marijuana: Legalization Bill Reintroduced in California Assembly

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #622)
Drug War Issues

Maybe the voters won't have to take things into their own hands this November in California after all. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced his marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 2254).

bill sponsor Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, with Dale Gieringer, Stephen Gutwillig and Aaron Smith in background
In a historic first, last session's version of the bill won a 4-3 vote in the Assembly Public Safety Committee -- the first time any legislative committee anywhere in the country has approved marijuana legalization legislation. But the bill failed to get to the floor before the consideration deadline passed.

The bill would "remove marijuana and its derivatives from existing statutes defining and regulating controlled substances" and would instead provide for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to regulate the possession, sale, and cultivation of the herb by people 21 or older. The bill would not affect California's existing medical marijuana law (except perhaps to render it unnecessary).

Under the bill, the ABC would regulate wholesale and retail sales. A special fee would be imposed, with proceeds going to fund drug abuse prevention programs. The bill would also "ban state and local assistance in enforcing inconsistent federal and other laws relating to marijuana."

"It is time to acknowledge that the existing model of prohibition has failed, and that California is long overdue for a public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana that reflects the reality of what is happening in our state," Ammiano said.

Marijuana is California's largest cash crop, with an annual estimated value of $14 billion. In evaluating last session's version of Ammiano's bill, the state Board of Equalization estimated that taxes generated under a legalization and regulation scheme could generate more than $1 billion a year.

"The fact that California's largest cash crop continues to go untaxed and unregulated is astounding, especially in such tough economic times," said Marijuana Policy Project California policy director Aaron Smith in a statement welcoming the bill. "We once again applaud Assemblyman Ammiano on his dedication and leadership on this issue and remain optimistic that 2010 is the year California ends its state's failed marijuana policies."

If the California legislature fails to act this year, it looks extremely likely that the voters will have a chance to vote for legalization in November. Organizers of the Tax Cannabis 2010 ballot measure last month turned in nearly 700,000 signatures, more than 250,000 more than then 434,000 valid signatures needed to make the ballot. That measure awaits certification by state election officials.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Camen L. Brown (not verified)

I'm a San Diegan who will speak out in support of AB 2254. This is good for the state of California.
My usual list of people from Gov. S on down to Marty Emerald will hear from me. Also, I will write the San Diego Union Tribune and local TV stations about how this bill is morally correct and saves money at the same time. That's a win-win. I also feel that most politicians are not in political jeopardy if they support this measure.

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 2:06pm Permalink
tokerdesigner (not verified)

From the figures given, it looks like a 7% tax, am I understanding correctly? That is so lenient compared to the "risk tax" users now pay, I'm surprised Ammiano doesn't go for a little more, try to get more of the credit for saving the state from bankruptcy etc.; anyway good luck everybody.

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 6:20pm Permalink
Mortimer (not verified)

It makes for a good pilot program for the rest of the country. But thie bigger issue here is that that's already happening. There's already a good percentage of Californians that smoke, that's a well established fact. If you want it you can get it. So given that reality, are we seeing a higher accident rate than more conservative states? Or higher crime rates associated with cannabis? (excluding dealers who sell other drugs).. I was in California not too long ago. Everything looked like it was running just fine to me. I felt safe, traffic was manageable, it looked clean, food was good, beaches were excellent. If weed is such a threat to society, nobody in southern california must've been smoking lately.

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 8:22pm Permalink
Richard Steeb (not verified)

Cannabis prohibition is nothing but abominable. Whether it be AB 2254 or the Tax & Regulate initiative, it is long overdue to cast off the chains. "By any measure of rational analysis" to keep Cannabis illegal while tobacco and alcohol are dispensed freely would be *MURDEROUSLY STUPID*.

Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:11pm Permalink
sobro (not verified)

I spent 4 months in prison in Pennsylvania in 1972 - 73 for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, which was then, a misdemeanor. As a recovering alcoholic, and the son of alcoholic parents, I'm thoroughly acquainted with the destructive potential of alcohol. My parents were also heavy smokers for 30+ years, but quit after their heart attacks. My mom died of cardiac failure, which was do, in no small degree, to her years of smoking.
It is about time for logic (not antiquated emotional, paranoid, unwarranted phobic fear of marijuana use) to determine public policy. Not only could the govt. reap sizable tax benefits from legalization, but also benefit from cutting the huge budgets allocated to law enforcement, litigation, and incarceration of people who are only guilty of using, & growing marijuana. In Florida, current law allows the state to imprison a person convicted of growing ONE marijuana plant for up to 5 years in prison, plus a fine, plus having the curse of a felony conviction on their record. This insanity must end as soon as possible.
Thank you for working towards a sane approach to this problem. A 60 year old responsible member of this country.

Fri, 03/05/2010 - 5:53pm Permalink

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