Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

May 12, 2010
Ammiano slows action on pot bill to await initiative campaign

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is putting the brakes on his bill to legalize and tax marijuana in California - at least until the campaign heats up for the November pot legalization initiative.

In an interview, the San Francisco Democrat said his Assembly Public Safety Committee will delay hearings on the bill until the fall.

Ultimately, Ammiano's proposed legislation, Assembly Bill 2254, may well play a key part in debate over the ballot measure.

"We want to see how the legislation can get out in front of the initiative and at the same time be complementary," Ammiano said.

The so-called Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis initiative would legalize recreational marijuana use in California for all adults over 21 and allow state residents to cultivate their own pot in household spaces of up to 25 square feet.

The initiative imposes no statewide tax. Instead it leaves it up to local governments to make decisions on taxing and regulating local marijuana establishments.

But Ammiano's bill would impose a $50 per once state levy on pot made available for sale. It also would license private marijuana cultivators and wholesalers and give the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control authority over a legal retail marijuana industry.

Ammiano said he is open to considering other ideas to generate state revenues and reconcile his bill with the initiative.

"The initiative does call for more of a patchwork than a uniform state policy," Ammiano said. "But there may be a way to try to blend those two."

Ammiano said he has been heartened by the legal marijuana push. He said he thinks the initiative may well lead to action in the Legislature pegged to its potential passage.

"The thing I would like to pitch to the Legislature is that it is looking good for this initiative," Ammiano said. "There are things we can do before it passes...because it seems to be resonating."

Wayne Johnson, political consultant for Public Safety First, the campaign committee opposing the legalization initiative, argued that the measure has "serious flaws in the drafting."

He said Ammiano's decision to wait until the fall for hearings on his bill reflects a lack of resolve in the Legislature to act on marijuana.

"You have to understand that legislators are not the most courageous people by nature," Johnson said. "Even though this is on the ballot, none of them are going to say, 'I think we should weigh in on this.'"

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About Weed Wars

Peter Hecht

From its pot fields to politics, California is the epicenter for America's marijuana discussion. This blog covers news, trends and people of the California marijuana story.

Contact reporter Peter Hecht at phecht@sacbee.com

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