By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
So Proposition 19 could bring bedlam? Trutanich hedges, perhaps worried he'll anger taxpaying voters who enjoy the occasional spleef: "Bedlam is a strong word. We just need to have rules that people can follow. If people say they're OK with no laws, that's what I'll enforce."
So much for a blood-and-guts campaign, making it tough for even veteran campaign consultants to predict the outcome on November 2.
Many say Californians should brace themselves for the Bradley Effect. That's what happened in 1982, when California had its first black gubernatorial candidate, late L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley. Polls showed him winning by a mile the day before the election.
But when white voters pulled the curtain on the booth, they voted for the white Republican, George Deukmejian, who won.
Which way could the Bradley Effect tilt? Would upper-middle-class secret smokers hold the key? Or would voters who like to sound modern when answering poll questions become prohibitionists in the privacy of the voting booth?
In Sacramento, a high-ranking official with the Legislative Analyst's Office says it almost doesn't matter if marijuana wins or loses.
If the vote is as close as polls suggest, count on change — chaos, even.
"Something like this would be a huge change in this state and eventually the country," says the official, who asked to remain anonymous. "At the very least, it will be interesting to see if this deals some death blow to the drug cartels. There are a lot of problems with the current laws and drug policy, and this would solve one of them. If Proposition 19 fails, and it's close, it will change the conversation toward changing current laws."
On the other hand, "If it gets 40 percent and does poorly," he says, "and Steve Cooley is elected attorney general and Meg Whitman becomes governor, you'll see a major crackdown on dispensaries in California. The anti-19 crowd will be emboldened."
Margolin's realistic about what the California landscape will look like should Proposition 19 pass. He notes the measure is limited in application because it allows possession of just 1 ounce per person and 25 square feet of growing space (that's 5 feet by 5 feet for those wondering about their side yards). And he opposes the measure's taxes because "there are enough taxes in the form of income tax and sales tax."
But, "It's the beginning of the end of the drug war," Margolin says. "To get the term legalization in a state law will affect the rest of the country and the world. Marijuana was outlawed in many countries in the '30s and '40s in what was called 'single convention.' The U.S. forced their hand. Countries had to agree to pot prohibition or they'd get no pharmaceuticals."
If Proposition 19 passes, the most visible market is sure to be cannabis tourism, where people vacation at reefer resorts and sensimilla spas.
"We haven't seen cannabis tourism like in the Netherlands," the anonymous state official says, "but we will."
In the Netherlands, possession of cannabis is not a crime. You can buy it but only in small quantities — no more than 5 grams per transaction — and only at certain coffee shops approved by the government. If you try dealing, and you're caught, the penalties can be harsh.
According to the Trimbos Institute/Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, the aim of allowing controlled marijuana sales is to ensure that cannabis users don't have to deal with a criminal subculture when making their purchases.
The Dutch extend their tolerance to heroin and cocaine addicts. When they're busted, they receive treatment in methadone clinics and free needles in a government-supported exchange program designed to prevent AIDS and hepatitis.
This could be why the Dutch have one of the lowest addiction rates in Europe. In a country of about 11 million people, some 363,000, or 3.3 percent, smoke marijuana.
According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 6.5 percent (2.47 million) of California's 38 million people smoke pot at least once a month. Almost 4 million people toke ganja at least once a year.
But marijuana is an everyday concern to Margolin. He'll see three more clients and call a dozen others before the day is done.
Right now, though, the attorney is taking a break from watching other people's backs. It's almost noon when he orders breakfast at Dolores Restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard. Eggs over-easy, whole-wheat toast, a single cup of coffee.
In 1999, Margolin received the Criminal Defense Attorney of the Year Award from the Century City Bar Association. In 2003, he joined the field of 134 other candidates, including former child actors, strippers and a muscleman in the free-for-all that passed for a California gubernatorial election. (The muscleman won.)
Margolin's platform: He pledged to legalize marijuana and free all 1,600-plus prisoners incarcerated on marijuana-possession charges in California.
It would be easy to dismiss Margolin as a fading hippie, spending the last 40-some years hammering away at drug laws that won't budge. But if Proposition 19 passes, pot will be legalized under freewheeling rules that are even looser than what's allowed in Amsterdam.
UCLA's Kleiman finds the wording of Proposition 19 deplorable. "We have two choices," he says. "Vote no and ratify [anti-]cannabis laws around the country and say to the other states that we're not legalizing marijuana.