A landmark bill to tax and regulate marijuana, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), was reintroduced in the California legislature today. The proposal would make personal possession and cultivation of marijuana legal for adults over 21 and would institute a regulatory system for marijuana sales modeled after the one that already exists for alcoholic beverages.
Asm. Ammiano’s 2009 marijuana reform bill, A.B. 390, was approved in the Assembly Public Safety Committee last month but did not advance further due to legislative calendar constraints. This year’s bill, A.B. 2254, is expected to receive hearings in the next couple of months.
Stay tuned as this bill progresses. We’ll definitely have our plates full out here in California, as we work on this legislation and build public support for reform in a year when the state’s electorate will be voting on the Tax Cannabis 2010 initiative.
Yesterday, the California Assembly's Public Safety Committee voted 4-3 in favor of legislation that would make marijuana legal, taxed, and regulated throughout the state. Before the vote, committee members heard supportive testimony from me and the Drug Policy Alliance's Stephen Gutwillig. Not surprisingly, A.B. 390's opponents were mostly entrenched law enforcement officials who make their living waging war on marijuana consumers.
A.B. 390 isn't likely to make it further this year due to a legislative deadline, but that shouldn't diminish the historical significance of this vote. Marijuana has been illegal for nearly 100 years in California and it's no small achievement for the first proposal to reform that arcane policy to be approved by a key legislative committee.
A.B. 390's author, Asm. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), is committed to introducing similar legislation again in the near future. And, the looming November ballot initiative is also likely to be giving California lawmakers a reason to prioritize the regulation of marijuana in California.
You can watch the full hearing here.
Tomorrow, I’ll be testifying before the California Assembly’s Committee on Public Safety during a hearing on A.B. 390 – legislation that would remove criminal penalties for personal adult marijuana use and tax and regulate its sales comparably to alcohol. After hearing testimony, the committee is very likely to vote on this landmark bill, which has been introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the committee's chair.
Regardless of the outcome, tomorrow’s hearing will mark a historic milestone in the road toward bringing the era of prohibition to a close. This is the first time in U.S. history that any state legislative committee will be voting on making marijuana legal, taxed, and regulated – and we actually have a chance of winning!
California residents: Please take a few minutes today to call your assemblymembers in support of A.B 390. MPP’s online action center couldn’t make calling any easier: Just enter your information and you’ll be provided with a phone number for your assemblymember and a script to help guide you through your call.
Today, the California Board of Equalization (BOE) released its analysis of state Assembly Bill 390 - legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana.
According to the report, the BOE would collect $1.38 billion annually in new revenue from the sales of legal marijuana, if the legislation is approved. The analysis is based on research that indicates that Californians annually consume about 1 million pounds of marijuana.
$990 million would be generated from a $50/ounce excise tax and would be earmarked for state drug education and treatment programs. An additional $392 million collected in sales tax would go into the state general fund. This report does not address the potential hundreds of millions in criminal justice savings that would be realized if California stopped arresting nonviolent adults for marijuana.
These figures should be raising some eyebrows under California's capitol dome today as the governor and state legislators are attempting to hammer out a solution to the state's record $26 billion budget deficit.
At a press conference today, Calif. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was asked about a recent poll finding that 56% of the state's voters support taxing and regulating marijuana as a means of bridging the state budget gap. While not endorsing the idea, Schwarzenegger did say it deserves a healthy debate.
From The Sacramento Bee:
"Well, I think it's not time for that, but I think it's time for a debate," Schwarzenegger said. "I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it. And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it have on those countries?"
He said his native Austria is revisiting some of its marijuana laws, for instance. The Austrian Parliament last year authorized medical marijuana.
"It could very well be that everyone is happy with that decision and then we could move to that," Schwarzenegger said of other nations' legalization policies. "If not, we shouldn't do it. But just because of raising revenues ... we have to be careful not to make mistakes at the same time.
Until recently, marijuana prohibition has been the proverbial elephant in the room that most politicians have avoided discussing. Schwarzenegger, himself a past consumer of marijuana, heads the executive branch of the largest state government in the United States and presides over the fifth largest economy on the planet.
One of California’s most respected polling firms, Field Research, just released data showing that 56% of registered voters in the state support legalizing and taxing marijuana as a means of generating revenue for the ailing state budget.
The poll asked voters for their opinions on various tax proposals. Making marijuana legal turned out to be among the most popular. The marijuana tax beat out carbon taxes, gas taxes, and business property taxes, among others.
Hopefully this poll will ensure that A.B. 390, a state bill to tax and regulate marijuana in California, will pick up more support in Sacramento.
The Washington Post also just released a national poll showing that 46% of Americans support “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” To put this number into perspective, Americans are now more likely to support marijuana legalization than approve of either party's job performance in Congress.