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San Francisco Rep. Tom Ammiano Proposes Bill to Regulate, Tax, and Legalize Marijuana

California Rep. Tom Ammiano (D-SF) "introduced a bill Monday[, February 23, 2009] that if approved by the California Legislature would put pot on the same legal footing as alcohol," the San Francisco Chronicle reported in a same-day article ("Calif. Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Legalize Pot"). The Sacramento Bee elaborates, stating that, under Ammiano's proposal (AB 390), "Marijuana would be grown and sold openly to adults 21 and older" ("Bill Would Legalize, Tax Marijuana"). Aside from its age restrictions, the bill also prohibits "driving under the influence of marijuana," the Bee explains, stating further that "AB 390 calls for numerous other restrictions, such as banning use near schools or growing cannabis in public view."

Ammiano, according to the Bee, "predicted that the public would support loosening marijuana laws that require substantial public funds." Indeed, among the many reasons the lawmaker cites for introducing the legislation, economic issues take center stage. As the Bee writes, the Assemblyman "said the cash-starved state could generate more than a billion dollars by taxing pot growers and sellers." Additionally, California "would gain by charging sellers a fee of $50 per ounce. Pot growers would also be charged under the measure." Perhaps most importantly, "Besides generating new tax revenue, Ammiano said his bill would save money by easing pressure on law enforcement and prisons."

Although Ammiano has said that "People in general are supportive" of the measure, the proposed legislation has a long way to go before it can be enacted into law. Press accounts report opposition from other politicians and note that the state "might have to persuade the federal government to alter its prohibition on cannabis," and anyone who follows politics knows just how long legislative processes can take. However, Ammiano deserves substantial credit not only for introducing the controversial bill but also for stimulating public debate around the issue. As he told the Bee, "I think there's a mentality throughout the state and the country that [marijuana issues are not] the highest priority [...]. And [...] maybe we should start to reassess."


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