The Week in Dope: January 19, 2010
Last Tuesday, San Francisco State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano scored a small victory in an effort towards increased legalization of marijuana. Ammiano’s Assembly Bill 390: The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act would essentially treat marijuana like alcohol—legal to consume, cultivate and sell for adults over 21. A proposed tax of $50 per once would bring in serious revenue for cash-strapped California—$1.3 billion annually, according to the State Board of Equalization. With a narrow 4 to 3 vote in the Assembly’s Committee for Public Safety, Ammiano’s bill passed its first step toward becoming law. However, it faces an uphill battle in ensuing committee votes, which aren’t likely to occur in this legislative session.
While some cheer for the small step toward the end of prohibition, others think the best is yet to come. In an editorial on Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reminded giddy THC fans that their favorite herb is still a DEA-classified Schedule 1 drug--right up there with heroin and mescaline. Though the Obama administration has declared it will turn a blind eye to California’s violation of federal law, the Times argued that the current situation is merely a weird kind of federalist “truce” and that, “Widespread legalization for recreational purposes is almost guaranteed to upset the delicate detente with Washington.”
Tamar Todd of the Drug Policy Alliance begs to differ. Todd argues that the passage of AB 390 could rectify numerous problems inherent in the current system and notes the unequal enforcement of marijuana law in the state. While African Americans make up only 7% of California’s population, yet they consist of one fourth of the marijuana-related arrests--most of which are conducted by state law enforcement. For anyone reading Marie Claire these days, we all know pretty white ladies like to get high too.
For those Californians worried about the shaky road ahead for Assembly Bill 390, there’s hope. With well over enough signatures, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act has confirmed its place on the ballot this fall. The proposition, sponsored by Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University, will regulate marijuana like alcohol and give local governments the authority to tax the substance as they see fit.
(As Californians inch towards a full-scale end of prohibition, bored with over a decade of marijuana restricted to medical use only, perhaps the rest of the country is starting to realize that the stuff might just be useful for something other than making Aqua Teen Hunger Force funny.)
While the New Jersey Legislature balked on same-sex marriage, this week also marked the passage of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The act will legalize the drug for treatment of patients with severe ailments such as cancer, AIDS and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Certainly a step towards wider cannabis use, legislators made clear that the new Garden State law isn’t the wishy-washy stuff of California’s oft-criticized vague one. With specific regulations in place for things like Department of Health-issued ID cards, patient background checks and the designation of places called “alternative treatment centers,” the New Jersey law puts emphasis on the medical part of medical marijuana. The Star Ledger has a handy FAQ for more details on the new laws.
Currently, lawmakers in Washington state and even Georgia are debating the legal merits of taking a legal toke or two. Meanwhile in the Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal, state senators begin talks on new laws to make stricter regulations for cannabis prescribing doctors. The proposed legislation has marijuana advocates split. To add to the mix, State Senator Chris Romer, who backed the new bill, recently suggested hotboxing the Colorado Capitol Building.
There may be more that we missed--our short term memory not being what it once was--but we'll catch in next week in... The Week in Dope!