Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

May 12, 2010
Ammiano slows action on pot bill to await initiative campaign

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is putting the brakes on his bill to legalize and tax marijuana in California - at least until the campaign heats up for the November pot legalization initiative.

In an interview, the San Francisco Democrat said his Assembly Public Safety Committee will delay hearings on the bill until the fall.

Ultimately, Ammiano's proposed legislation, Assembly Bill 2254, may well play a key part in debate over the ballot measure.

"We want to see how the legislation can get out in front of the initiative and at the same time be complementary," Ammiano said.

The so-called Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis initiative would legalize recreational marijuana use in California for all adults over 21 and allow state residents to cultivate their own pot in household spaces of up to 25 square feet.

The initiative imposes no statewide tax. Instead it leaves it up to local governments to make decisions on taxing and regulating local marijuana establishments.

But Ammiano's bill would impose a $50 per once state levy on pot made available for sale. It also would license private marijuana cultivators and wholesalers and give the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control authority over a legal retail marijuana industry.

Ammiano said he is open to considering other ideas to generate state revenues and reconcile his bill with the initiative.

"The initiative does call for more of a patchwork than a uniform state policy," Ammiano said. "But there may be a way to try to blend those two."

Ammiano said he has been heartened by the legal marijuana push. He said he thinks the initiative may well lead to action in the Legislature pegged to its potential passage.

"The thing I would like to pitch to the Legislature is that it is looking good for this initiative," Ammiano said. "There are things we can do before it passes...because it seems to be resonating."

Wayne Johnson, political consultant for Public Safety First, the campaign committee opposing the legalization initiative, argued that the measure has "serious flaws in the drafting."

He said Ammiano's decision to wait until the fall for hearings on his bill reflects a lack of resolve in the Legislature to act on marijuana.

"You have to understand that legislators are not the most courageous people by nature," Johnson said. "Even though this is on the ballot, none of them are going to say, 'I think we should weigh in on this.'"

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.