A state lawmaker from San Francisco has introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol.
It has been endorsed by a retired Orange County judge who used to be a federal prosecutor.
Jim Gray is a Vietnam combat veteran who spent 25 years on Orange County's 'bench'. He's riled a lot of anti-drug crusaders with his critiques of America's war on narcotics.
In his view, it's 'high time' -- so to speak -- for another approach to marijuana.
"We would make marijuana less available for our children than it is today," Gray said.
"Why is that? Because alcohol is controlled by the government, and illegal drugs are controlled by drug dealers, and they don't ask for ID. So what's not to like?"
His critics can rattle off any number of reasons, but in Judge Jim Gray's book, the cost-benefit ratio of enforcing marijuana laws in California is not in society's favor.
$1 billion a year, without really curbing demand, he says, when $1 billion could be reaped by taxing a regulated pot business.
"We glamorize it by making it illegal. We fund an awful lot of juvenile gangs because they want to be a part of the action selling this stuff," Gray said.
Gray is lobbying face-to-face and on the talk-show circuit, arguing that health-care intervention trumps law enforcement interdiction.
"Drug treatment works. What else works? Honest education,” Gray said. “Education is working today with regard to a real killer -- a mind-altering, sometimes addictive drug -- namely, tobacco."
While countries such as Holland and Switzerland have decriminalized marijuana, mental health experts say Americans are going to need a lot more convincing for public opinion to shift in that direction.
"The idea that the government is involved in even regulating the distribution just turns people's stomachs that we would be promoting it somehow," forensic psychiatrist Clark Smith, M.D. said.
The Assembly bill in Sacramento faces major obstacles in the Legislature and even if passed and signed by the Governor, it wouldn't take effect unless there's an enabling act of Congress signed by the President.
By Michelle Wayland, Gene Cubbison
updated 10:47 p.m. ET April 26, 2009