Monday, February 22, 2010

Bill to legalize, regulate marijuana reintroduced into state Assembly

The Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act was reintroduced
into the California Assembly on Thursday after its first iteration
expired last month.

The bill, also known as AB 2254, covers many aspects of regulation, but
some of its main goals are to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults
21 and older in a manner similar to alcohol and to "deprive the
criminal market of revenue," according to the bill's language. It is
also hoped that the bill will decrease the violence associated with the
criminal market. Fees added to the sale of marijuana would pay for drug
education, awareness and rehabilitation.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano reintroduced the bill last week after his
previous bill, AB 390, was passed by the Assembly Public Safety
Committee but was not discussed by the Legislature before the
consideration deadline.

"It is time to acknowledge that the existing model of prohibition
has failed, and that California is long overdue for a public policy for
the control and regulation of marijuana that reflects the reality of
what is happening in our state," Ammiano said in a statement
regarding AB 390.

Medical marijuana would be excluded from these regulations, according to
the bill. The bill would prohibit smoking marijuana in the same places
tobacco is currently prohibited.

Some local residents were excited about the bill's possibilities.
Humboldt State University senior Colby Grand said that people are going
to use the drug regardless of whether it's legal, so decriminalizing it
makes sense. The county and state would save money, not only by taxing
the drug, but by not making "needless arrests" because of it, he

"I think it'd be pretty amazing if we were to legitimize that
industry," Grand said.

In the bill's current language, it would remove all existing civil and
criminal penalties for persons at least 21 years of age who were
arrested for marijuana-related crimes, except for those laws
"proscribing dangerous activities while under the influence of
marijuana" or activities that expose minors to the drug.

Brian Wilkins, who recently moved to Humboldt County from Fallon, Nev.,
said passing a bill such as this would be "the smart thing to
do," as the government would likely make a profit from taxing it.

The proposed fee would be $50 per ounce of marijuana sold in the state,
unless a different fee is determined, according to the bill. The funds
would go to the Drug Abuse Prevention Supplemental Funding Account
created by the bill to fund drug education, awareness and rehabilitation
programs. It is unclear if another tax will be added to the drug if the
bill is passed.

Terrianne Simkhovitch of Arcata said she was "100 percent
behind" the bill if it successfully legalized marijuana.

"There could be a hemp industry here and it could revitalize Del
Norte and Humboldt counties," she said.

Some residents were interested in legalization but not taxation, but
some were indifferent. Eureka resident George Walter said people will
want whatever they want, and taxation might be inevitable if it is

"The gears got to keep turning, and money makes it happen," he

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