Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Is California Going to Pot?

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Question: when it comes time to actually mark your ballot, do you savor the moment, thoughtfully pondering each candidate and proposition (I’m thinking of my dear old dad, who can turn a razor-thin weekday edition of The New York Times into a day-long love affair), or do you speed through the ballot lickety-split as you any other of life’s unpleasantries? 

I ask this because, if you’re voting in California this fall, the first ballot measure on the Nov. 2 slate is Proposition 19, which would legalize the use, possession (up to an ounce), cultivation and selling of marijuana in the Golden State for residents 21 and up (it’s the 2nd time California has gone down this road — only one-third of voters supporting 1972’s Prop 19, which would have legalized marijuana starting at age-18). 

Is marijuana legalization the kind of topic that makes voters stop and think? Or, when it comes to the leafy green, does the electorate see it solely in black-and-white terms? 

For California’s leading candidates, the answer is “no” — in this election cycle, both Democrats and Republicans fear the reefer. 

You might think Jerry Brown supports it. He doesn’t

How about Kamala Harris, the San Francisco d.a. now running for California’s top cop? You can count her out, even though she hails from a city where, arguably, it’s easier to grow pot than food crops

Who else who’s running for office wants to curb the herb? Well, there’s Sen. Barbara Boxer, who came out against Prop 19 even though one of her aides was arrested back in D.C. for pot possession. 

As for Republicans Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, they attended Stanford and Princeton during the 1970s when, rumor has it, students could tell the difference between paper clips and roach clips. Still, both have declared their opposition. 

And that takes us back to the concept of speed-voting vs. pensive-voting. 

Clearly, California politicians view drug legalization as a third rail. But does the public see it so clearly? We’ll find out in a few weeks. 

I took part in a panel discussion in Berkeley the other day and had the good fortune of sharing the stage with Debra Saunders, the very talented San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Deb’s a bona fide conservative — but her fans on the right might find her position on Prop 19 quite provocative. 

I’d add to that column my Hoover colleague Joseph McNamara, a former San Jose police chief who takes his law-and-order seriously. Again, his take on Prop 19 might surprise you (click here to see Joe’s FNC interview). 

Does this suggest there’s an intellectual subculture in California that runs counter-current to the political culture? Again, we’ll find soon enough. But I can tell you that the Yes on 19 campaign is pushing one button that resonates with voters: adding revenue to the state’s coffers. 

In the meantime, here are some of my questions: 

Officer Sniffy


1) Assuming Prop 19 passes and it’s legal to possess marijuana in California, what happens if I board a plane at SFO or LAX with a joint in my pocket, land elsewhere in the country, and Sniffy the Narco-Pup catches me holding and treats me like I’m wearing Milkbone underwear? Am I guilty of pot possession — or, like same-sex marriage, will other states follow California’s lead and recognize the new law? 

2) If revenue-enhancement is a powerful selling point, where does California stop along this slippery slope? Does the Golden State become the new Nevada, with legal brothels? Where else can the state make money: pay-per-view prison gladiator bouts . . . pay-per-view, pay-for-play legislators? 

3) Under Prop 19, you can grow your own — so long as it’s grown in a 5×5 space. But who’s going to police my background and make sure I don’t turn my back-40 into an enterprising little pot vineyard? 

4) What happens if and when Republicans take control of the federal government and we get a 21st Century Elliot Ness as the nation’s attorney general? Do the G-men descend in force upon California, or do we have more of the see-no-evil status quo

5) If California legalizes marijuana, does our long national nightmare end: Bill Clinton finally admitting that he tried marijuana in places other than England, partook of the drug more than “a time or two” — and, yes, that he inhaled?


Written by Bill Whalen

September 22, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] 19 doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny. I’ve ranted on this before, so I’ll spare you another diatribe . . . aside from saying that the promised revenue […]

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