by Wyatt Buchanan, SF Chronicle Staff Writer
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that the time is right to debate legalizing marijuana for recreational use in California.
The governor’s comments were made as support grows nationwide for relaxing pot laws and only days after a poll found that for the first time a majority of California voters back legal marijuana. Also, a San Francisco legislator has proposed regulating and taxing marijuana to bring the state as much as $1.3 billion a year in extra revenue.
Schwarzenegger was cautious when answering a reporter’s question Tuesday about whether the state should regulate and tax the substance, saying it is not time to go that far.
But, he said: “I think it’s time for debate. I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues – I’m always for an open debate on it.”
The governor said California should look to the experiences of other nations around the world in relaxing laws on marijuana.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has introduced a bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol, with people over 21 years old allowed to grow, buy, sell and possess cannabis – all of which are barred by federal law.
California voters in 1996 legalized marijuana for medical use with permission from a physician.
Ammiano said he was pleased the governor is “open-minded” on the issue and added that he was sure the two could “hash it out.”
Under Ammiano’s proposal, the state would impose a $50-an-ounce levy on sales of marijuana, which would boost state revenues by about $1.3 billion a year, according to an analysis by the State Board of Equalization. Betty Yee of San Francisco, who chairs the Board of Equalization, supports the measure.
“This has never just been about money,” said Ammiano, who has long supported reforming marijuana laws. “It’s also about the failure of the war on drugs and implementing a more enlightened policy. I’ve always anticipated that there could be a perfect storm of political will and public support, and obviously the federal policies are leaning more toward states’ rights.”