California Leads Nation In Marijuana Legalization Debate

The debate over pot is moving at a snail's pace.

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It seems that the spendthrift ways of politicians in Sacramento might do the job of the San Andreas fault earlier than expected: break the state up into pieces.

Could these be the desperate times needed to pass one desperate measure: legalize marijuana to raise revenue? We first heard about that proposal in California months ago, but there's been no action.

Tom Ammiano, the California assemblyman who proposed the legislation, spoke to the Seattle Times this week about how the debate is moving forward:

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano contends his bill would generate up to $1.3 billion in revenue.

"People who initially were very skeptical — as the polls come in, as the budget situation gets worse — are having a second look," the San Francisco Democrat said. "Maybe these issues that have been treated as wedge issues aren't anymore. People know the drug war has failed."

This renewed enthusiasm for the issue has spilled over to DC, where a few people on the Hill are taking action of their own:

• In Congress, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., are among several lawmakers contending that decriminalization should be studied as part of an examination of what they deem to be failed U.S. drug policy. "Nothing should be off the table," Webb said.

My thoughts: A Republican (other than Ron Paul) signing on to Webb and Kucinich's effort would be the next milestone in this debate.

UPDATE: And it looks like there are two Republicans in the Senate co-sponsoring Webb's bill to establish a National Criminal Justice Commission: Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch.