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.
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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