Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Schwarzenegger Sparks Marijuana Debate
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar has repeatedly said he would not sign legislation legalizing marijuana. Yesterday he changed course. The state's ongoing billion-dollar fiscal crisis is making the idea of taxing legal marijuana to raise revenue worthy of serious consideration. Yesterday he said "it's time for a debate" on the issue. The former bodybuilder and Hollywood star has acknowledged using marijuana in the 1970's and was shown smoking a joint in the 1977 documentary "Pumping Iron." In a 2007 interview with the British edition of GQ magazine, Schwarzeneggar said of marijuana: "It's not a drug. It's a leaf." He went on to say: "My drug was pumping iron, trust me." His lighthearted comments aside, right now this is a serious issue. Earlier this year, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. And it seems he's in touch with his constituents. In a statewide Field Poll, 56% of Californians support legislation. According to Ammiano, this type of legislation "would generate up to $1.3 billion in much needed revenue for the state." That's why Schwarzeneggar is now taking a long hard look at the issue, although he's not quite ready to sign any marijuana legislation into law. "Well, I think it's not time for that, but I think it's time for a debate," he said. "I want to study how other countries have approached legalizing and taxing marijuana." He said his native Austria is revisiting some of its marijuana laws. Last year the Austrian Parliament authorized the use of medical marijuana. In America, millions of people already use marijuana, so legalizing it would not change too many people's habits. California has allowed medical marijuana, but left the legal guidelines up to local jurisdictions. Because it could help balance the budget, the issue of legalizing marijuana for recreational use deserves serious debate. I mean, what's the downside? Lots of people think marijuana is harmless, no worse than alcohol and a lot better than cigarrettes. Of course that's not my view. My drug is riding an exercise bike.