Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

February 28, 2010
Ammiano fires up legalization and taxation quest again

ha_marijuana4340.JPGThe last time Assemblyman Tom Ammiano seized the stage for taxing and legalizing marijuana in California, he was overwhelmed with law enforcement officials warning of perils for public health and safety. He complained his public safety committee hearing reeked of "Reefer Madness," a reference to the 1936 cult classic on youth bedeviled by weed.

Now Ammiano, whose committee voted 4-3 to pass a bill that immediately died because it was too late to reach the Assembly floor, is at it again. The San Francisco Democrat is pushing to pass a modestly reworked new pot measure, Assembly Bill 2254.

The bill would legalize marijuana use for California adults 21 and over and give the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control authority to tax and regulate pot like booze.

The department would license private marijuana cultivators and wholesalers with application fees of up to $5,000. The bill would impose a $50 per once levy on pot made available for sale, a tax touted as a way to medicate California's fiscal ailments.
Notably, the legislation would also prevent state and local authorities from working with federal agents in prosecuting marijuana use or distribution allowed under the bill.

Don't expect any calm political seas for this one - or a similar ballot initiative in the works for November.

"California has taken the lead in tobacco use reduction for the nation," protests John Redman, executive director of the San Diego-based California Alliance for Drug Free Youth. "So how can the same state then move over to an explosion in marijuana use? There are groups and organizations ready to fight this. They have awoken a sleeping giant."

If anything, Ammiano says, his bill reflects a new awakening in attitudes towards marijuana in the Golden State.

"California can finally have a policy towards marijuana that reflects reality," he said in announcing the bill. "It's time for California to regain control of this issue by taxing and regulating marijuana."

Pictured: Ammiano meets the press after his earlier pot bill clears his committee in January. Hector Amezcua/hamezcua@sacbee.com

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