California bill seeks to legalize marijuana

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Smoke weed -- help the state?

Marijuana would be sold and taxed openly in California to adults 21 and older if legislation proposed Monday is signed into law.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said his bill could generate big bucks for a cash-starved state while freeing law enforcement agencies to focus on worse crimes.

"I think there's a mentality throughout the state and the country that this isn't the highest priority - and that maybe we should start to reassess," he said.

Critics counter that it makes no sense for a Legislature so concerned about health that it has restricted use of trans fats in restaurants to legalize the smoking of a potentially harmful drug.

"I think substance abuse is just ruining our society," said Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley. "I can't support that."

"I think it's a slippery slope," Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, said of easing pot laws. "We'll do everything we can to defeat it."

Medical use of marijuana already is legal in California, but the new legislation would go a step further by allowing recreational use.

Assembly Bill 390 would charge cannabis wholesalers $5,000 initially and $2,500 annually for the right to distribute weed.

Retail outlets would pay fees of $50 per ounce of cannabis to generate revenue for drug education programs statewide.

The bill would prohibit cannabis near schools. It also would ban smoking it in public places or growing it in public view.

Before California could sell marijuana openly, however, it would have to persuade the federal government to alter its prohibition on pot.

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