California lawmakers fail marijuana by not passing Assembly Bill 604

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

I heard there was a last-minute effort to fix medical marijuana at the Capitol last week?

—Medical Matt

Alas, Assembly Bill 604 is dead for now. It’s a shame. The feds have practically given weed the green light, provided that states enact strong regulation. That’s why Colorado and Washington are proceeding. A.B. 604 would have put medical marijuana under the auspices of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control board, plus a few other things to create a comprehensive, statewide medical-marijuana policy. The Legislature tried to get it passed just before the session ended, but the bill couldn’t get to the floor for a vote. Insert “stoners do everything at the last minute” joke here.

The bill faced opposition from the California Narcotics Officers’ Association and other law-enforcement organizations.

Let’s talk about that for a moment. How do the police get a say in this? When I first started talking to police about cannabis, they would say to me, “If you don’t like the law, get it changed.” So we did. We have changed the laws, and the police still complain about weed and fight us at every turn. Why?

Every study done in the past few years shows that well-run medical-cannabis dispensaries are not targets for crime and actually make neighborhoods safer. So, why are the police trying to keep it illegal?

It has to be about the money. If marijuana is no longer a crime, the cops stand to lose millions of dollars. Like Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.” It’s a form of willful ignorance. Maybe if we earmarked portions of a marijuana tax to the police, they would stop being so obstinate.

The bill may be reintroduced in January 2014. In the meantime, you should hammer your elected representatives—2014 is coming soon, and many of them will be up for re-election. This is the perfect time to let them know they need to be part of the solution.

I’m super excited about the progress being made toward marijuana decriminalization, and I recently contributed to National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws to help in their efforts for legalization. I’m thinking about making another financial contribution for the cause and was wondering if this is the best place to help, or are there other organizations making headway?


Thank you for helping. NORML is good place to start. I also like Americans for Safe Access (, Marijuana Policy Project ( and Drug Policy Alliance ( All of these groups have proven themselves time and time again to be staunch and successful drug-law reformers. I wish more people would put their money and time into undoing marijuana prohibition. It seems like a small thing to do, but the effects would be wide-ranging and beneficial.