Two current pieces of legislation in California may reconfigure state and local laws concerning the sale and use of marijuana. Assembly member Tom Ammiano’s (D-San Francisco) legislation, A.B. 2254, would legalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and over.
The cannabis bill also specifies that a 50-dollar excise tax will be levied for one ounce of marijuana sold by approved vendors. Robert Ingenito from the California Board of Equalization testified at a government hearing that the state would reap 1.4 billion in tax revenues if legalization and the tax were employed. The tax revenues would also accompany an increase in jobs associated with the production and sale of cannabis, which is significant in light of California’s economic climate.
California’s initiative process introduced another bill: the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 (TC2010), which will be on the ballot in November, 2010. On a statewide level, the measure only decriminalizes personal use; the sale and regulation of cannabis production would be optional for counties and cities throughout the state but barred otherwise. The state legislature will be able to amend TC2010 if full legalization at the state level is desired in the future.
If TC2010 passes, citizens in the state cannot be “punished, fined, discriminated against or denied any right or privilege” for merely using marijuana. Therefore, random drug testing for marijuana will likely halt but the bill stipulates that “the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected.”
According to a recent Field Poll, 56% of Californians support the legalization of marijuana. Although many people may believe the drug is just another vice, others point out that it is a safer alternative to alcohol and tobacco. Proponents of marijuana legalization include people with varying political affiliations. Progressives and other democratic leftists may believe that the government should not take a stand on moral issues like drug use, especially when there are no victims.
Some on the Right might agree as well; Jim Gray, a retired Orange County judge with libertarian values, asserted in a recent issue of High Times his support for marijuana legalization and opposition to the “war on drugs.” Opponents of marijuana legalization might obviously include the alcohol industry, major health care institutions and professions, and the “prison-industrial complex.” Fortunately, direct democracy, through citizen proposals and issue-voting, will allow the public to decide for itself on this and other matters in November.