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Friday, September 25, 2009

Puff, Puff, Pass: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano Receives Hero's Welcome at San Francisco Pot Conference

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 10:59 AM

Tom Ammiano (left) poses with NORML's founder, R. Keith Stroup - ANNA MCCARTHY
  • Anna McCarthy
  • Tom Ammiano (left) poses with NORML's founder, R. Keith Stroup
Pot enthusiasts started off day two of NORML's 38th Annual Conference with a "Marijuana Mitzvah," which the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' executive director, Allen St. Pierre, described as a pot blessing ("Mitzvah" translates, roughly, as "good deed" from Hebrew; St. Pierre also threw in a mitzvah shout-out to Bob Marley).

But most conference attendees didn't pull themselves out of bed before 9 a.m. to hear the pot mitzvah. They came to hear the pot luminary -- San Francisco Assemblyman, Tom Ammiano. Ammiano recently introduced the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act" (AB 390), which would legalize, tax, and regulate Marijuana in California. So it goes without saying that this crowd gave Ammiano a rousing standing ovation before he even took to the mic.

In his talk this morning, Ammiano emphasized his hope that with a sea change in the body politic and its stance on Marijuana, both the public and the politicians will start to take the issue more seriously. He added that he believes the vehicle of legislation gives the issue the kind of gravitas it deserves. "This is a public policy issue, in my mind ... I'm looking for this perfect storm," he said, adding that the tone in legislature these days is much more "user-friendly" than it was before.

Ammiano said that in the next few months there would be an informational hearing to deal with the intricacies of decriminalization and taxation of Marijuana before the bill hits the floor in early 2010. He concluded with a shout-out to Harvey Milk and his message of hope, and walked away from the mic with another standing ovation and toting an award for "Outstanding Public Leadership in Marijuana Law Reform" from NORML's executives.

No matter how serious he is about pot legislation, Ammiano still manages to keep a good sense of humor about being the political poster child for pot and even called himself a "celebrity stoner" midway through his talk. (It should be noted that he also dubbed the "celeb stoner" status on best-selling author and TV personality, Rick Steves, who was sitting at a table in the audience and will be speaking at the conference on Saturday as part of NORML's advisory board).

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