California was the first to legalize medicinal marijuana and, if three ballot measures and a bill floating around the state legislature have anything to say about it, the Golden State could be the first to legalize and tax adult marijuana use across the board.

Don’t get too excited. Ending pot prohibition is tricky politics, even in a state that grows and sells billions of dollars worth of the stuff every year. And while the Justice Department has relaxed its stand on medical marijuana, federal officials aren’t crazy about Cali’s reefer madness.

Yet legalization advocates are closer than ever to their ultimate goal. It’s a lesson learned by other movements: Get a toehold. You can see that in the health care debate. Is there any doubt most proponents of the public option would prefer single-payer? On the other side of the political spectrum, pro-lifers have had a lot more success chipping away at and restricting abortion rights than getting Roe v. Wade overturned. — PZS

The New York Times:

State lawmakers are holding a hearing on Wednesday on the effects of a bill that would legalize, tax and regulate the drug — in what would be the first such law in the United States. Tax officials estimate the legislation could bring the struggling state about $1.4 billion a year, and though the bill’s fate in the Legislature is uncertain, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has indicated he would be open to a “robust debate” on the issue.

California voters are also taking up legalization. Three separate initiatives are being circulated for signatures to appear on the ballot next year, all of which would permit adults to possess marijuana for personal use and allow local governments to tax it. Even opponents of legalization suggest that an initiative is likely to qualify for a statewide vote.

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