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Legalize marijuana? Schwarzenegger says let's debate it

By Jimmy Orr / May 6, 2009

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (not actual size) on Tuesday said it was time for a discussion on the idea of legalizing and taxing marijuana. Although he said he doesn't support it now, he welcomed a debate on the issue.

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It wasn't as though Arnold Schwarzenegger held a press conference with Cheech and Chong in the back of a van and said, "Whoa, I have this awesome idea, man..."

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The governor was asked if he would support the legalization and taxation of marijuana to help the state of California get out of its budgetary mess.

No, he doesn't support that -- at least right now. He said specifically, "No, I think it's not time for that."

Debate

It was the rest of his statement, however, that's caused a stir around the pro-legalization world. The governor said it should be talked about.

"I think it's time for a debate," he said. "I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it."

As part of that debate, the governor said Californians need to look to the countries -- like his native Austria -- that have already relaxed drug laws.

"I think that we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect it had on those countries, and are they happy with that decision," he said. "Or, like for instance in Austria, I've heard that they are unhappy with that and they want to roll back some of the decisions that were made in European countries."

Poll

Late last week, the director of a pro-marijuana legalization group praised a recent poll that showed 56 percent of Californians are OK with the legalization and taxation of marijuana.

"Right now people in the Capitol are laughing off the idea of taxing and regulating marijuana. This will show them there's some serious voter support on the issue," said Aaron Smith, the Marijuana Policy Project's California policy director.

It's not just a California poll. A WashingtonPost/ABC survey, also released last week, revealed that 46 percent of Americans support legalization of small amounts of marijuana for personal use -- that's double the support it had a decade ago.

Money

If it were legalized and taxed, how much of an impact would it have on California's budget? According to the author of a bill in the California State Assembly, it could add $1.3 billion to the state's coffers.

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