The Marijuana Tipping Point

While Schwarzenegger wants to debate pot legalization, Californians are ready to do it and the mainstream media lets you know where you can buy some.

It looks as if marijuana has reached a tipping point. Last week,
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he welcomed a debate on legalizing
and taxing pot. And of course, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco
has a bill that would do just that. Ammiano estimates that California
could reap $1.3 billion a year in marijuana tax proceeds. And the
governor’s surprising comments indicate that he wants Ammiano’s bill to
get a full airing.

So did the former steroid-using bodybuilder and self-admitted pot
smoker experience have some sort of latent realization? Or is he just
watching the polls? Because public opinion has definitely shifted. An
ABC News/Washington Post poll last month that found that 46
percent of Americans want to legalize small amounts of pot for personal
use. And in California, a Field Poll revealed that 56 percent of state
residents want to make cannabis legal and tax it.

Even the mainstream media is starting to take the question
seriously. On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a
front-page story that essentially asked the question: If pot becomes
legal, where can I buy some? Not surprisingly, Richard, Lee, president
of Oaksterdam University in Oakland, thinks California should follow
Amsterdam’s model and allow cafes to sell pot. But that seems a bit
limiting. If the state is going to reap tax benefits, why not make it
available wherever alcohol is sold? Or at least require retailers to
get a license, much like the ones they have for booze. Still, there’s
this thorny question: Who will grow marijuana and sell it to retailers?
The issue is key, and likely will require some serious regulations,
because if legal pot becomes a boon for drug dealers, then the
experiment will fail.

Oakland’s Cop Crisis

On the other hand, marijuana tax proceeds would be a boon for
cities. Oakland, for one, needs the help. Right now, the city’s ugly
budget deficit stands at $83 million, but according to the Oakland
Tribune
, it could grow to $100 million because of a shortfall in
this year’s recession-plagued tax returns.

Dellums, meanwhile, also made news for hiring a national headhunting
firm to find the city’s next police chief. According to the
Trib, the Massachusetts-based headhunters are recruiting
candidates from around the country. But there’s also at least one good
choice right here in the Bay Area — Ron Davis, East Palo Alto’s
police chief. Davis is a former Oakland police captain, who ran the
East Oakland district with significant success in the late 1990s. Davis
is a smart cop who knows Oakland well, and is a believer in geographic
policing and the importance of solving crimes. Plus, he has experience
running a police department in a city with steep divisions of wealth
like Oakland.

But whoever Dellums chooses, he and the headhunting firm, along with
City Administrator Dan Lindheim and Councilman Larry Reid, say the new
police chief should get a three- to four-year contract because no good
candidate is going to want the job knowing that he could be replaced in
eighteen months by a new mayor. That makes sense, but the city had
better pick the right person, because it won’t be fair to burden the
next mayor with a police chief who can’t get the job done.

UC Gets Hacked, Spends More Money

Speaking of the need for better policing, UC Berkeley notified
160,000 alumnus and students that the university’s health services
electronic databases had been hacked. Lots of personal information was
compromised, including Social Security numbers and individual health
information. The hacking went on for six months, beginning last
October, and wasn’t discovered until April 21, some fifteen days after
it ended. Maybe it’s time that the UC regents raise student fees again
and begin paying some big bucks for computer security. After all,
that’s what the regents do best. The latest example? The regents voted
to raise student fees last week by 9.3 percent while making a series of
expensive new hires, including the appointment of new chancellors at UC
San Francisco and UC Davis. The new administrators will make $450,000
and $400,000 annual salaries, respectively, which represent increases
of 12 percent and 27 percent over their predecessors.

Pelosi and Yoo, Sitting in a Tree

In torture news, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was outed as a
hypocrite. Earlier this year, the San Francisco congresswoman had
called for a “truth commission” to get to the bottom of Bush-era
wrongdoing. But then she backed off. Late last week, the Washington
Post
revealed a possible explanation: The CIA told Pelosi in early
2003 that it had waterboarded prisoners, and she did nothing to stop
it, let alone bring it to light. Republicans are already pouncing on
Pelosi’s hypocrisy as a reason for why the whole torture thing should
be swept under the rug. As for our resident torture academic, UC
Berkeley’s law school professor John Yoo, a long-awaited internal
Justice Department probe is reportedly almost done, and it’s expected
to recommend that Yoo face legal disciplinary hearings, up to losing
his law license. But not a criminal prosecution.

Three-Dot Roundup

A new report shows that California lenders made 56 percent of all US
subprime loans during the height of the housing boom. … Silicon
Valley execs told the White House to leave their tax loopholes alone so
that they can keep outsourcing jobs. … The so-called swine flu panic
finally calmed down and kids went back to school. … Berkeley passed a
watered-down version of its global warming law. … The nation’s
leading adult-movie maker asked Miss California Carrie Prejean to star
in porn films after partially nude photos of the anti-gay-marriage
beauty popped up on the Internet. … And the always-irreverent
Onion announced that it will no longer publish San Francisco and
Los Angeles editions because of the economic crisis.

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