Legislation to make California the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use lit up a Capitol committee hearing Wednesday with three hours of lively but mellow debate.
No joint consensus was reached.
Dozens of people crammed into the Assembly Public Safety Committee session to discuss potential impacts of the proposal to allow pot to be taxed and sold openly to adults 21 and older.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat who proposed the measure, Assembly Bill 390, contends it could generate much-needed revenue and free peace officers to focus on worse crimes.
"Prohibition results in chaos, which is pretty much the situation we have now," Ammiano said shortly before the hearing.
But John Standish, president of the California Peace Officers' Association, testified that approving public pot use could exacerbate problems from illnesses to absenteeism.
"There is no way marijuana could protect and promote our society," he said. "In fact, it radically diminishes it."
Phillip Smith, 55, described himself as a pot smoker who otherwise abides by the law.
"All I want is to be left alone," he said.
Medical marijuana use already is legal in California, but not recreational use. More than 78,500 people were arrested in 2008 on pot-related offenses, state records show.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken no position on AB 390.
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