As part of the continued push to legalize marijuana in California, the state Assemblyâ€™s public safety committee approved a bill Tuesday to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. It’s the farthest that efforts to legalize marijuana have got in the state.
The committee vote comes just a day after New Jerseyâ€™s legislature became the 14tth state to pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana. Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has said he will sign the law before leaving office next week.
The use of marijuana for medical purposes is already legal in California, but the new bill would remove marijuana and derivatives from existing statutes defining them as controlled substances and make it legal to possess, sell, and cultivate marijuana by those 21 and older. It sets up wholesale and retail sales regulation with special fees to fund drug abuse prevention programs. And it bans local and state assistance â€œin enforcing inconsistent federal and other laws.â€
Reaction to the 4-3 committee vote has been swift and strong on both sides of the issue. Advocates of legalization are overjoyed.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D), who introduced the bill, cited changing public attitudes toward marijuana and the need to plug Californiaâ€™s enormous budget deficit. A tax of about $50 per ounce of marijuana will raise over $1 billion annually, according to a state tax board assessment of the bill.
Ammiano spokesman Quintin Mecke says the bill has little chance of making it to the Assembly floor for a vote, partly due to legislative constraints. But it appears likely that the issue will be put to the ballot in November in California as well as other states including Washington and Oregon.