Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

California Lawmaker Trying To 'Legalize It'

On a day when a Los Angeles city crackdown on 21 medical-marijuana dispensaries sent a chill through the pro-pot community, state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a bill to essentially tax and legalize weed -- not just the medical variety -- in California.

The bill is a reintroduction of one he authored last year, which died in a committee as 2009's legislative session expired. The law would regulate pot like alcohol, giving those 21 and older the right to buy it, grow it and possess it -- no doctor's recommendation needed.

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"This bill is the most innovative and expansive approach to regulating marijuana in the country today," stated Stephen Gutwillig, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "More and more states are following California's lead and seriously considering alternatives to failed marijuana policies that waste billions of dollars and needlessly criminalize millions of Americans. Assembly member Ammiano is at the front of the pack, demanding a meaningful conversation about ending marijuana prohibition."

Ammiano's bill would tax weed at a rate of $50 an ounce, which the state Board of Equalization has stated could bring the state a much-needed $1.3 billion a year in extra dough. A Field Poll late last year found that 56 percent of Californians favor some form of full legalization for pot. A parallel state initiative that would legalize the drug appears to be headed for the November ballot.

Ammiano notes that marijuana is the state's largest cash crop -- he says it's worth double the state's massive vegetable and grape agribusiness. He states that 78,000 Californians have been arrested for pot-related charges, 80 percent of which involve "simple" possession.