A decade ago, legalizing medical marijuana seemed like a radical notion. But today—with 13 states on board and New Jersey days away from becoming the 14th—full-on legalization of the drug appears to be the pro-pot lobby's next frontier, and California is the pioneer. A key Golden State legislative committee has approved, 4–3, a bill to legalize the drug and tax it like alcohol, potentially raising billions to resolve California's budget crisis. Is the bill just a long shot, or is it a viable way for the state to ward off financial ruin? (Watch a report about California's efforts to legalize marijuana)
Hooray for California! This historic marijuana-legalization vote "is huge news not only for the pot smokers of America, but for the people of California," says Nicole Sandler at Air America. Taxing pot would add more than $1 billion to the state's dangerously depleted coffers. But the best part is, "the rest of the country may soon follow suit," just as it has with medical marijuana.
"One small step for CA, one giant leap for pot smokers"
Allowing recreational pot is asking for trouble: "Not so fast," says the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. Regardless of what the state does, pot is still illegal under federal law. The "dramatic" step of legalizing the drug at the state level would almost certainly "upset the delicate detente with Washington" that has developed around medical marijuana.
"Legalize marijuana? Not so fast"
Don't read too much into the vote: Whatever the outcome, "it seems safe to say that today's vote marks a departure from drug policy as usual," says Jacob Sullum in Reason, and a "milestone" on the road to a more sensible treatment of marijuana. But before we get too excited, remember that this particular bill probably won't pass—and that's "a fact that may help explain why a majority of the committee felt comfortable voting for legalization."
"California Assembly committee approves pot legalization"
Wait till the people weigh in: The bill's expected death won't spell the end of the push for legal recreational pot, says Christopher Weber in Politics Daily. Supporters say they have enough signatures to put the legalization question up for referendum—and with polls showing that "a majority of California voters support legalization," a ballot measure is a safer road to recreational pot than the state legislature.
"Bill that would legalize marijuana in California passes committee"
SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE ON THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA: