CA NORML Legislative News

Legislature Kills "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License."

SACRAMENTO: To the cheers of marijuana reformers, the legislature quashed an unexpected attempt by Gov. Gray Davis to revive California's controversial "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" law.

California NORML launched an all-out campaign to defeat the bill, AB 2295, backed by Davis and sponsored by Assemblyman Dean Florez (D-Fresno), which would have required an automatic 6-month driver's license for all drug offenses, regardless of whether they are driving-related.

Observers were surprised by Davis' attempt to revive the unpopular law, which comes from a federal highway funding mandate aimed at rolling back California's marijuana decrim law. Under the federal mandate, states are compelled either to enact an anti-drug license suspension law, or else to officially opt-out by a joint resolution of the governor and legislature. Under pressure from Gov. Wilson, who had co-sponsored the original federal mandate, the legislature reluctantly enacted a temporary "Smoke a Joint,Lose Your License" law which expired in July 1999. At the same time, it passed an opt-out bill by State Sen. Quentin Kopp to allow the next governor to opt out.

When Gov. Davis assumed office, it was widely expected that he would go along with the opt-out. Instead, to the astonishment and outrage of many of his own supporters, Davis announced he was supporting AB 2295. Davis' move evoked howls of protest not only from drug reformers and civil libertarians, but also organized labor, including the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO. The bill also came under fire in editorial pages. The San Francisco Chronicle attacked it as "absurd," "ill-conceived," "ridiculous," and "clumsily scattershot."

With assistance from the Drug Reform Coordination Network (, California NORML organized a lobbying campaign that sent hundreds of letters, faxes, petitions and e-mails to the legislature and Governor in opposition to the Florez bill.

AB 2295 foundered in the Assembly under strong resistance from Democratic leaders, including Assemblywoman Carole Migden and Senator John Burton. It was almost killed by the Public Safety Committee, where not a single Democrat supported it until the Governor resorted to extraordinary personal arm-twisting to prevail on three members to change their votes. One of them, Assemblymember Fred Keeley, (D-Santa Cruz) said he did so only to be a "team player," not because he supported the bill. "I personally don't believe there is a nexus between these issues," he said, "If someone is caught at home smoking a joint, I am not sure how that is related to driving a car at all."

AB 2295 was subsequently buried by the Appropriations Committee, where it was never brought to a vote.

California NORML urges supporters to keep up the pressure on Gov. Davis by calling on him to opt out of the federal mandate. Gov. Gray Davis, State Capitol, Sacramento CA 95814; (916) 445-2841; FAX (916) 445-4633;

CA NORML 2215-R Market St. #278 San Francisco CA 94114 (415) 563-5858