One day after Gov. Schwarzenegger said it was high time for a debate about legalizing and taxing marijuana, Calbuzz rolled up our sleeves and set out to score the views of the candidates who want to succeed him.
The governor’s comment came as a new Field Poll showed that 56% of Californians support the notion of taxation with legalization for pot, an idea that Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco has proposed in AB390.
According to a February estimate by the Board of Equalization, legalizing pot could raise an estimated $1.34 billion annually in tax revenue, although there might be a concomitant decline in tax income from cigarettes and booze.
Arnold may not be in favor of legalized pot today, but he was filmed smoking a doobie in the 1977 film, “Pumping Iron.” “That is not a drug. It’s a leaf,” he told a British magazine in 2007.
Since the wannabe governors surely won’t have a joint press conference on the issue, we decided to hash out the differences among and between them by posing a simple question, without getting into the policy weeds of Ammiano’s 26-page bill:
Given the state’s fiscal challenges, would you as governor support increasing revenues by legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana for recreational use? Why or why not?
The answers ranged from Tom Campbell’s openness to the idea through Jerry Brown’s magisterial avoidance and Meg Whitman’s unadulterated “No Way, Mary J!” Here’s what they said:
Tom Campbell: “I’m entirely open to getting a good, qualified and balanced report on this question. I’m not for legalizing on the basis of what I know now. However, I am for devoting scarce enforcement dollars to drugs like meth; and I have long favored allowing medical marijuana use. I have been critical of the use of federal resources to close down medical marijuana dispensaries that are legal in California.”
Meg Whitman: “I am absolutely, 100% not in favor of legalizing marijuana for any reason.” (What about to increase tax revenues?) “That is the last reason that one should think about legalizing marijuana.” (BTW: It was good to see Whitman answer the question at a brief press avail in San Francisco after our Calbuzz Rant yesterday. Our follow-up to Meg is this: By “any reason” do you mean you oppose the medicinal use of marijuana?)
Steve Poizner: “Like electing Jerry Brown as governor, the idea of legalizing drugs is one more bad idea from a bygone era. Nor can California smoke its way out of the structural budget deficit. The best way to increase state revenues is to grow the whole economy. Only those who are smoking something think tax increases will lead to economic growth.”
Jerry Brown: “I’m not prepared to comment on it at this point. I’m not a gubernatorial candidate, No. 1, and as attorney general, I’m not prepared to comment.” As for a discussion of the fiscal merits, Brown added: “I wouldn’t limit myself to that topic. We need a wide ranging exploration of revenues, cuts, changes and reforms in government over the next decade.” [Doesn't sound like the state's top cop will be joining these guys anytime soon.]
Gavin Newsom: “I will always be a strong advocate for legalized medicinal uses of this substance, it’s something that I have fought for — and will continue to fight for as governor. But I do not believe that blanket legalization and taxation is a responsible way to balance the state’s budget.”
Antonio Villaraigosa: No response. Must be those damn emergency budget crisis meetings again. We did get this from one of Tony V’s consultants: “As you are well aware, Antonio is not currently a candidate for governor.” Okey doke, then.
BTW: A shout-out to our friend Carla Marinucci at the SF Chronicle, who managed to get a few questions in at Meg’s press avail yesterday.