Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CA Assembly Committee Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill

Unfortunately, it's likely the bill won't go any further after today's monumental 4-3 victory in the Public Safety Committee. The bill needs to make it into the Health Committee before a legislative deadline this week and it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

But so what? We won! This is the first time that any legislative body in the nation has voted to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use. In October, SSDP members from SJSU and UC Berkeley attended the first hearing on the bill and participated in the public opinion, voicing their support for the bill and citing specific harms caused by marijuana prohibition.

SSDP had a strong presence at this hearing too and it was exciting to be in California's capitol as the Assembly Committee on Public Safety voted YES to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana throughout the state.

Afterward, we attended the press conference organized by law enforcement and the California Alliances for Drug Free Youth condemning the Assembly's vote. They gave a lot of scary reasons to fear legalizing pot. Some of these people are well intentioned. Others I'm not so sure about. But they're both wrong.

What I liked about AB 390 was that it would have taken tax dollars from marijuana sales and put them into drug education and prevention programs for youth. These types of programs are underfunded as it is and if they are realistic and honest (not DARE) they can make positive differences in young people's lives. So naturally it seemed absurd to me that Republican Assemblyman Danny Gilmore, who voted nay on the bill, expressed his distaste for that particular aspect of the legislation:

''We're going to legalize marijuana, we're going to tax it, and then we're going to educate our kids about the harms of drugs?'' said Gilmore, a 31-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol. ''You've got to be kidding me.''

We're not joking. But that sure is a funny position to take when we know that this is exactly what some states do with alcohol and tobacco taxes. And it works. A study at the University of Florida showed “statistically overwhelming evidence” that raising taxes on alcohol reduces the level of drinking. As alcohol gets more expensive, people will drink less frequently and drink less when they do.

Just think about that. AB 390 would impose a $50 tax per ounce! $50 per ounce folks. So not only would the price be going up dramatically and likely to increase over years but the tax dollars go toward prevention programs! Seems plain as day to me...

Check out this video for a great rundown of what happened today (you even get to see me start things off by fumbling some words!).

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