Cal NORML Testifies at historic hearings on marijuana legalization

SACRAMENTO, Oct. 28th. The state Assembly Public Safety Committee held historic hearings on the legalization of marijuana, the first since "Indian hemp" was prohibited in 1913. The hearings were chaired by Tom Ammiano (D-SF), who has proposed a legalization bill, AB390, which will be heard early next year.

"I speak on behalf of California's millions of marijuana users who are tired of being criminals and would like to be taxpaying, law-abiding citizens," testified California NORML director Dale Gieringer, who argued for a system of regulated legal distribution like that found in the Netherlands or India before 1986 For CalNORML's testimony, see www.canorml.org/APStestimony.pdf.

Dan MacAllair of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice testified that pot possession arrests have soared during a time when other arrests in California have declined, indicating an increased emphasis on marijuana enforcement. Other pro-legalization witnesses included ex-superior court Judge James Gray, former SF DA Terence Hallinan, the Rev. Mary Moreno Richardson, ACLU attorney Allen Hopper and DPA attorney Tara Todd.

The state Board of Equalization testified that legalization could yield the state some $1.4 billion in tax revenues, a figure closely in line with California NORML's own estimate.

Characteristically, law enforcement expressed bitter opposition. "Marijuana radically diminishes our society," said John Standish, president of the California Peace Officers Association, who refused to distinguish between pot and methamphetamine. Standish was joined by El Cerrito Police Chief Scott Kirkland, who heads the California Police Chiefs' Association on Medical Marijuana, and Sally Fairchild of the A.G.'s High-Intensity Drug Trafficking unit.

In perhaps the most stupefying testimony, Sara Simpson, assistant chief of the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, bewailed the evils of pirate growers and Mexican drug outlaws, then voiced concerns that legalization would somehow tighten their grip on California.

In response, Judge Gray explained how legalization would actually undercut the criminal market and protect children from crime.