| This was a particularly depressing article from the Sacramento Bee:
All three leading guv hopefuls oppose legalizing weed for recreational use.
"I've already indicated that that's not a provision I am likely to support," Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown told a gathering of law enforcement officials in Sacramento this week. "I have been on the side of law enforcement for a long time, and you can be sure that we will be together on this November ballot."
GOP candidate Meg Whitman's spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, said Whitman is "absolutely against legalizing marijuana for any reason. ... She believes we have enough challenges in our society without heading down the path of drug legalization."
Steve Poizner's communications director, Jarrod Agen, said Poizner "feels we need an across-the-board tax cut to reignite our state's economy, not an attempt to smoke our way out of the budget deficit."
These statements are damning evidence of just how disconnected from California public opinion these three candidates are - 56% of Californians support legalizing and taxing marijuana, according to the Field Poll from April 2009. Support for legal marijuana is an idea fully in the mainstream of the state's electorate, especially in the tightly regulated forms proposed in the legalization initiative that qualified for the November ballot last week, or in Assemblymember Tom Ammiano's AB 390.
It also suggests a certain lack of seriousness about exploring all reasonable options to deal with the state's budget deficit. Jerry Brown is particularly disappointing on this, even if his stance isn't at all surprising. Brown has gone around the state pointing out, correctly, that we spend too much money on prisons at the cost of other core services, such as schools. Brown also signed a bill in his first year as governor in 1975, sponsored by then-State Senator George Moscone, decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Unfortunately, in recent years Brown has been totally unwilling to revisit the sentencing policies that produce those high prison costs. He opposed Proposition 5 in 2008, which would have provided sensible sentencing reform and was widely supported by drug treatment professionals. That didn't move Jerry Brown then and doesn't appear to move him now.
Brown's framing of his opposition to legalization - that he's "on the side of law enforcement" - is both inaccurate and profoundly unhelpful. Groups such as Law Enforcement Professionals Against Prohibition (LEAP) are strongly supportive of legalization. Many local police agencies and county prosecutors would welcome the ability to shift their attention away from pot and toward actual threats to public safety, especially at a time when police budgets are under stress.
Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner are no less out of touch for their opposition, even if it is also unsurprising. Both Whitman and Poizner apparently believe they must hold the line against ANY new tax, in order to justify their reckless plans for massive new tax giveaways to their wealthy friends.
All three candidates are turning down what could be as much as $1.4 billion (according to the Board of Equalization study of AB 390) in desperately needed budget savings, coming from new taxes on marijuana.
In the absence of leadership from the gubernatorial candidates, Californians will have to lead the way themselves this November by voting to approve the legalization initiative.