California Committee Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill, but Bill Dies

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has vowed to reintroduce the legalization bill.Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has vowed to reintroduce the legalization bill.California lawmakers took a historic first step toward legalizing marijuana when an Assembly committee approved legislation that would put the drug on the open market as a regulated and taxed product.

Almost simultaneous with the passage, however, the bill died — for now. With a Jan. 22 deadline nearing for approving legislation from last year and no agreement to take it up in the Health Committee, where it must go before it reaches the Assembly floor, the author of the bill, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has vowed to reintroduce it.

“This is a significant vote because it legitimizes the quest for debate, legitimizes the quest for discussion,” Ammiano said. “This is far from over. Not only did we get it out of public safety, but members are now willing to say, yes, this is worthy of discussion.”

Advocates hailed the narrow passage of the bill, AB390 — it was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on a 4-3 vote — as a major breakthrough that will lead to a national legalization movement.

“This is the formal beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States,” said Stephen Gutwillig, director of the Drug Policy Alliance Network.

The legislation, AB390, drew fierce opposition from law enforcement groups and anti-drug advocates, who said it would empower drug cartels, make it more available to youths and send the wrong message about drug tolerance.

“We’re going to legalize marijuana and tax it and then educate our kids about the harms of drugs? You gotta be kidding me,” said Assemblyman Danny Gilmore, R-Hanford, a retired CHP officer of 30 years. “This is a classic example of the slippery slope. What’s next? Are we going to legalize methamphetamines or cocaine?”

Ammiano dismissed what he described as “alarmist” views of opponents, saying the state should take heed of the growing movement in California toward legalization. A group has collected enough signatures to place legalization on the November ballot, and Ammiano and others said it was important that lawmakers control the details of the policy.

The bill would remove all penalties in California law on cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, or use of marijuana, natural THC, or paraphernalia for persons over the age of 21.

– Article from San Jose Mercury News.