Historic Legalization Vote in CA

- California NORML Release -

SACRAMENTO, Jan 12, 2010. In a historic vote, the Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 4-3 to approve Tom Ammmiano's bill to legalize and regulate marijuana, the first time a legislative body has ever voted to repeal MJ prohibition. The bill does not have time to move forward to the next legislative step, which would involve hearings by the Health Committee, and will therefore likely die at the end of the week, but Ammiano said he would re-introduce a similar bill in an upcoming session.

The bill was supported by NORML, DPA, MPP, Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety, the ACLU, the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the S.F. Sheriff, and the AFL-CIO. Appearing against the bill were a blue phalanx of cops from around the state*, plus leading drug prohibitionists including ex-ONDCP operative Andrea Barthwell , Inland Valley anti-drug activist and legislative candidate Paul Chabot, Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith-Based Coalition, Carla Lowe, and CNOA lobbyist John Lovell.

Proponents argued that prohibition has failed, and that regulation is needed to quell the chaos of the illegal, criminal market. Opponents repeated familiar reefer madness themes, bafflingly claiming that the bill would feed into the hands of drug cartels, have a devastating impact on public health and safety, and exacerbate crime and drug abuse.

After a heated discussion that ran well over the allotted time, the bill was moved by Assemblyman Jared Huffman of Marin, a temporary appointee to the committee, who said he didn't support or use marijuana, but that criminalization had failed, and that he viewed it as a "preliminary" bill. Among the other Aye votes, Nancy Skinner of Berkeley worried about teen abuse, but said there was a clear need to regulate marijuana better, and that it was far better for the legislature to propose a bill than to do so via ballot initiative, which she strongly opposed. Jerry Hill of San Mateo warned that he would not support the bill in its present form on a floor vote, but was voting for it to keep the discussion going, in particular so there could be hearings in the Health Committee (it is too late for such hearings on AB 390, but Health Committee hearings can be expected on a future bill).

Warren Furutani of Long Beach voted nay, even though admitting to inhaling in the 60s, saying the bill was premature and he would prefer a bill to establish a study commission.

Republican Danny Gilmore (Hanford), an ex-police officer, voiced an emphatic "NO," complaining that revenue from the bill would go exclusively to treatment and rehab.

Vice-Chair Charles Hagman (R-Diamond Bar), another "NO," said that one day of hearings didn't do the bill justice, and that the issue needed more discussion. He complained that Prop 215 hadn't played out the way Californians intended, and that legalization violated federal law.

Ammiano called the day's proceedings an important step forward in legitimizing the discussion of marijuana legalization. He added that there was a good chance Californians might approve the upcoming ballot initiative, in which case there would be a pressing need for the legislature to step in with statewide regulations. Noting that it had taken six years for other major reforms such as Prop. 63 to be passed, he called the issue "bigger than California."

VIEW THE HEARINGS ONLINE AT: http://www.calchannel.com/channel/viewVideo/929
SEE AMMIANO SPEAK ABOUT THE VOTE AT: http://videos.sacbee.com/vmix_hosted_apps/p/media?id=9223369

* Law enforcement representatives opposed to the bill at the hearings included: the police departments of San Mateo, Red Bluff, Paso Robles, W. Sacramento, Calexico and the Imperial Valley, Huntington Beach, the Los Gatos PD and Santa Clara DA; the Long Beach, Santa Ana and Los Angeles Co police associations, the San Bernardino Sheriff , the Sacramento Sheriff, the Riverside Sheriff, the El Cerrito PD (two representatives), and the Cal DA Association.

Drug War Chronicle eyewitness report
NYT/AP: Committee Approves Calif. Pot Legalization Bill
SF Chron: Assembly committee OKs recreational marijuana
LATimes: Assembly committee OKs bill to legalize marijuana
Gather.com: Wow, it is Actually Possible- That California Will Legalize Pot. California Assembly Panel Votes to Legalize Marijuana
CC Times:AB390 Passes Public Safety Committee; Health Won't Hear It Before Jan. 22 Deadline
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