Monday, January 25, 2010

Committee passes marijuana legalization bill, but bill dies

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers took a historic first step toward legalizing marijuana when an Assembly committee approved legislation that would put the drug on the open market as a regulated and taxed product.

Almost simultaneous with the passage, however, the bill died — for now. With a Jan. 22 deadline nearing for approving legislation from last year and no agreement to take it up in the Health Committee, where it must go before it reaches the Assembly floor, the author of the bill, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has vowed to reintroduce it.

“This is a significant vote because it legitimizes the quest for debate, legitimizes the quest for discussion,” Ammiano said. “This is far from over. Not only did we get it out of public safety, but members are now willing to say, yes, this is worthy of discussion.”

Advocates hailed the narrow passage of the bill, AB390 — it was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on a 4-3 vote — as a major breakthrough that will lead to a national legalization movement.

“This is the formal beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States,” said Stephen Gutwillig, director of the Drug Policy Alliance Network.

The legislation, AB390, drew fierce opposition from law enforcement groups and anti-drug advocates, who said it would empower drug cartels, make it more available to youths and send the wrong message about drug tolerance.

“We’re going to legalize marijuana and tax it and then educate our kids about the harms of drugs? You gotta be kidding me,” said Assemblyman Danny Gilmore, R-Hanford, a retired CHP officer of 30 years. “This is a classic example of the slippery slope. What’s next? Are we going to legalize methamphetamines or cocaine?”

Ammiano dismissed what he described as “alarmist” views of opponents, saying the state should take heed of the growing movement in California toward legalization. A group has collected enough signatures to place legalization on the November ballot, and Ammiano and others said it was important that lawmakers control the details of the policy.

The bill would remove all penalties in California law on cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, or use of marijuana, natural THC, or paraphernalia for persons over the age of 21.

Reach Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101.
N.J. lawmakers OK medical pot
TRENTON, N.J., Jan. 11 (UPI) — Both houses of the New Jersey Legislature Monday approved a measure allowing medical marijuana (OOTC:MJNA) use and the governor has said he will sign the bill.

The Assembly approved the bill 48-14 and the Senate voted 25-13 in favor, The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported. Gov. Jon Corzine has said he would sign the measure before leaving office Jan. 19, the newspaper said.

The “Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana” bill is scheduled to take effect in six months. While it would make New Jersey the 14th state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, its backers said during the legislative debate it would be the toughest medical marijuana law in the United States, the newspaper said.

New Jersey residents would not be permitted to cultivate their own marijuana and criminal background checks would be required for designated care givers to acquire pot on behalf of severely ill patients.

One of the measure’s sponsors, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, said New Jersey should not “make criminals out of our very sick and terminally ill.”

“It does not make sense for many of New Jersey’s residents to suffer when there is a viable way to ease their pain,” Gusciora said. “But this is a responsible bill with enough oversight to prevent the abuses that have been reported in other states.”

An opponent of the measure, Assemblyman John Rooney, said there were “too many loopholes.”

“There are other drugs,” he said. “There are many ways to relieve pain.”
Source: UPI (January 11, 2010 – 10:01 PM EST)

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