Four Bay Area legislators provided the votes Tuesday as the state Assembly Public Safety Committee approved by a 4-3 margin a bill that would legalize adult recreational use of marijuana and allow the drug to be sold and taxed in the state.
The bill, AB 390, is authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).
Joining Ammiano in voting for the bill were Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley).
Stephen Gutwillig, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said he thinks the vote is "historic" because "it marks the formal beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States."
Gutwillig said, "Nobody thinks passing a bill of this kind is doable in 2010" but he said the fact that it passed out of committee is significant and potentially sets the stage for it to be approved by the full Assembly in the future.
He said the quest by marijuana advocates to have the drug legalized "got a lot easier after today."
Ammiano's spokesman, Quentin Mecke, said, "We're quite happy because this is the first time in the U.S. that a bill like this has been carried and has been approved by a committee."
Mecke said Ammiano is still hopeful that the bill will be heard in the Assembly's Health Committee before a deadline on Friday but he admits that such an outcome is "unlikely."
Gutwillig said three years ago a marijuana legalization bill wouldn't even have been introduced in the state Legislature, let alone be approved by a committee.
He said there's now a broad national momentum toward reconsidering marijuana prohibition and Washington State's House of Representatives will consider a similar bill today.
Gutwillig noted that proponents of a statewide initiative to tax and regulate marijuana have gathered sufficient signatures to place it on the ballot this November.