California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger calls state legislators to a special session to address budget concerns November 6, 2008 in Sacramento, California. The state's budget deficit has ballooned to $11.2 billion in just the past few weeks, and Schwarzenegger calls for budget cuts and a tax hike. (Getty Images)more pics »California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Tuesday that it's time we started considering the prospect of marijuana legalization.
Schwarzenegger has long displayed a laissez-faire attitude toward pot. He was filmed smoking marijuana for the 1977 film Pumping Iron and even said of the drug in 2007: "That is not a drug. It's a leaf." But the governor wasn't quite ready to sign on to any campaign to legalize said leaf. The Sacramento Bee reports that during an appearance at a fire safety event in Davis, the governor took a question on the subject.
"Well, I think it's not time for (legalization), but I think it's time for a debate," Schwarzenegger said. "I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it. And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it have on those countries?"
The governor was asked about a recent Field Poll which found that 56% of voters would favor legalizing and taxing marijuana. California has some of the most notoriously lax laws regarding cannabis, with a flourishing medical marijuana industry that is still considered illegal by federal standards. State Representative Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation in February that would legalize, regulate and tax the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
Ammiano has proposed a tax of $50 for every ounce of marijuana sold to raise an estimated $1.34 billion for the state.
Schwarzenegger showed a considerably more open attitude than President Barack Obama on the subject. Though Obama said he would consider pursuing the decriminalization marijuana while on the campaign trail, he shut down questions about the move during a town hall meeting in March. Addressing an online question asking whether he thought pot legalization could help the United States out of its current economic troubles, the president said: "The answer is no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy."