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The first step to legalize marijuana in California is on a roll.
Lawmakers on Tuesday approved Assembly Bill 390 -- legislation to tax and regulate marijuana. The Assembly's Public Safety Committee voted 4-3 on bill at a hearing in Sacramento. The bill will now be passed to the full Assembly on Friday for consideration.
The bill, authored by San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, would essentially treat pot the same way alcohol is treated under the law and would allow adults over 21 to possess, smoke and grow marijuana.
The law would also call for a fee of $50 per ounce sold and would help fund drug eradication and awareness programs. It could help pull California out of debt, supporters say, raising up to $990 million from the fees.
Among the supporters of legalizing marijuana is a group of police, judges and prosecutors who formed a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The organization firmly believes that legalizing marijuana for adults will help improve American society by restricting youth access to it and taking the attraction away from cartels that traffic pot as an illegal substance.
"The mere fact that there will be votes in the Assembly to regulate and control the sale and distribution of marijuana would have been unthinkable even one year ago." Retired Orange County California Supreme Court Judge Jim Gray said via a statement from the group. "And if the bill doesn't pass this year, it will soon. Or, the bill will be irrelevant because the voters will have passed the measure to regulate and tax marijuana that will be on the ballot this November."
Gray testified before the assembly's informational hearing in October 2009 and defined the group's position about why they are for overturning the prohibition on marijuana.
This is the first time in U.S. history any state legislative body has ever considered repealing marijuana prohibition, which has been in place since 1913.