As California struggles to find cash, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday it's time to study whether to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use.
The Republican governor did not support legalization – and the federal government still bans marijuana use – but advocates hailed the fact that Schwarzenegger endorsed studying a once-taboo political subject.
"Well, I think it's not time for (legalization), but I think it's time for a debate," Schwarzenegger said. "I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it. And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it have on those countries?"
Schwarzenegger was at a fire safety event in Davis when he answered a question about a recent Field Poll showing 56 percent of registered voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana to raise revenue for cash-strapped California. Voters in 1996 authorized marijuana for medical purposes.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has written legislation to allow the legal sale of marijuana to adults 21 years and older for recreational use. His Assembly Bill 390 would charge cannabis wholesalers initial and annual flat fees, while retailers would pay $50 per ounce to the state.
The proposal would ban cannabis near schools and prohibit smoking marijuana in public places.
Marijuana legalization would raise an estimated $1.34 billion annually in tax revenue, according to a February estimate by the Board of Equalization. That amount could be offset by a reduction in cigarette or alcohol sales if consumers use marijuana as a substitute.
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