Marijuanupdate: What's Up Next for Ammiano's Legalization Bill?

Categories: Government
In the weeks following his introduction of an Assembly bill that would legalize -- and tax -- marijuana, the always quotable Tom Ammiano became one of the nation's most sought-after sources of quotes. His bill was discussed in every major paper in the state, and many nationally (including Zig-Zag, yes) and he even sat for interviews with French and Danish TV crews. An interview with CBS' national evening news was scheduled for last night.

The fizz is finally going down a little bit -- Ammiano's press secretary, Quintin Mecke, said this week was the first he wasn't being barraged with all marijuana questions, all the time.

The innocuously named "Assembly Bill 390" has now been shunted into the pipeline, like so many other bills dealing with issues such as roads or schools (that don't spur mile-long threads at marijuana-legalization listservs). Ammiano's bill was referred to both the public safety and health committees -- Mecke says that a double referral isn't unusual for "bills that have multiple reaches" as Ammiano's does, and could be heard in committee(s) "sometime this spring" -- though he hopes to learn a more specific date in the coming weeks. The Assemblyman's colleagues have, ostensibly, had time to thumb their ways through the 60-page bill, and Ammiano is looking to make friends and influence people.

"I do have support from a lot of colleagues, who say: 'Oh my God, I think this is great, but I don't think I can vote for it,'" Ammanio told "So it's going to be my job, even in conservative areas, to say: "Vote for it. This is something that will help your community. You may be a Republican, you may be conservative, but your health clinic just closed, your husband just got laid off." 

Mecke -- almost certainly the first former San Francisco mayoral candidate to serve as flack for a fellow city mayoral candidate -- said that his boss' timing was prescient: The San Jose Mercury News lauded the Assemblyman for starting a discussion about legalization while the conservative-leaning Economist magazine came out this month for legalizing drugs. Meanwhile, President Obama's nominee for drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has acknowledged that the war on drugs, in its present form, is a colossal failure.

"There's a widespread agreement that what we're doing now regarding marijuana prohibition is not working," said Mecke. "It's definitely time for conversations."

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