The Recession

Groundbreaking Calif. Bill Would Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

| by Marijuana Policy Project

SAN FRANCISCO --- Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) today announced the introduction of legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcoholic beverages. The bill, the first of its kind ever introduced in California, would create a regulatory structure similar to that used for beer, wine and liquor, permitting taxed sales to adults while barring sales to or possession by those under 21.

Estimates based on federal government statistics have shown marijuana to be California's top cash crop, valued at approximately $14 billion in 2006 -- nearly twice the combined value of the state's number two and three crops, vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion). Massive "eradication" efforts, wiping out an average of nearly 36,000 cultivation sites per year, have failed to make a dent in this underground industry.

"It is simply nonsensical that California's largest agricultural industry is completely unregulated and untaxed," said Marijuana Policy Project California policy director Aaron Smith, who appeared with Ammiano and other officials at a San Francisco news conference to announce the legislation. "With our state in an ongoing fiscal crisis -- and no one believes the new budget is the end of California's financial woes -- it's time to bring this major piece of our economy into the light of day."

Independent experts from around the world, from President Nixon's National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1972 to a Canadian Senate special committee in 2002, have long contended that criminalizing marijuana users makes little sense, given that marijuana is less addictive, much less toxic and far less likely to induce aggression or violence than alcohol.

For example, in an article in the December 2008 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Australian researcher Stephen Kisely noted that "penalties bear little relation to the actual harm associated with cannabis."