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Campaigning on legalizing marijuana: Is Bernie Sanders smoking something?

Campaigning on legalizing marijuana: Is Bernie Sanders smoking something?
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders attends Game 7 of the Western Conference finals Monday in Oakland, alongside actor Danny Glover, bottom right. (John G. Mabanglo / European Pressphoto Agency)

Nits and lice from the California primary trail. No, I'm not calling politicians parasites. Not necessarily.

1. Bernie Sanders must be smoking something.

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Pandering to potheads by endorsing a marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot is his right. But, as the saying goes, he doesn't have a right to his own facts.

"It makes sense to legalize marijuana," Sanders told a campaign rally last week in East Los Angeles where, wrote Times reporter Kurtis Lee, "a slightly pungent pot aroma wafted through the air."

"If I were here in your state," the Vermont senator continued, "I would vote yes on that issue."

So far OK. But the candidate showed ignorance or intellectual dishonesty in explaining his position to a Santa Monica crowd:

"If you are a 19-year-old kid applying for a job and your employer asks you if you've ever been arrested and you say, 'Well, yeah, I was smoking marijuana,' you may not get that job."

Fact: No one in California gets arrested for toking weed. It's not even a misdemeanor. It's the same as a traffic ticket. And that isn't even enforced on anyone using marijuana just to get a buzz.

Smoking a joint as so-called medicine, of course, has been legal for two decades.

If you're trafficking by the bushel load or a big-time grower for social use, you can be arrested. But hardly anyone is ever locked up in California on a marijuana charge. Only three-tenths of 1% of state prison inmates are incarcerated for any pot conviction.

Yes, the federal government still considers marijuana a dangerous drug and deems its use a crime. Only Congress can change that. So get at it, senator.

Incidentally, that 19-year-old kid? He couldn't legally smoke a joint even under the initiative. He'd have to be 21.

2. Give Sanders credit: He paid respect to the Bay Area — and showed his populist roots — by attending the Golden State Warriors' Game 7 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder for the NBA Western Conference championship.

Many politicians are afraid to walk into sports stadiums. They could be booed. Gov. Jerry Brown has shied away from big-time sporting crowds. But he did attend a 2012 World Series game won by the Giants and later tweeted "Great night in San Francisco."

Sanders and actor Danny Glover, his supporter, arrived at halftime Monday night in Oakland and took 15th row seats in the fan section, not with the elites courtside or in a corporate suite. No boos.

The Warriors "were down three games to one and they came back," Sanders said. "And I think we're going to come back as well."

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That would be a lousy bet.

3. Hillary Clinton's endorsement by Brown on Monday was a no-brainer for the governor. He really had no option.

If Sanders, rather than Clinton, had been far ahead in the Democratic delegate count, Brown probably would have endorsed him, I'm told.

But although Brown was "deeply impressed" with Sanders, as he said in his carefully crafted statement, he considered Clinton's lead "insurmountable" and concluded "this is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other."

Personal political positioning aside, Brown's No. 1 goal, he indicated, was to "stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump."

Trump threatens two of Brown's most cherished causes: fighting climate change and — going back several decades — stopping nuclear proliferation.

The presumptive Republican nominee calls global warming a hoax. And last week he vowed to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Brown attended that Paris conference.

Trump also has suggested that Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear arsenals.

Yeah, that's what we need: more nukes in the world. And Trump's finger on a launch button.

4. Trump is all wet on water.

He showed his gullibility after a short meeting with Fresno-area farmers by proclaiming there's no drought.

As if reading off one of those crude San Joaquin Valley farm signs that blames the government for creating a dust bowl, Trump declared: "It is so ridiculous, where they're taking the water and shoving it out to sea."

Fresh water flows to the ocean in order to push back salt water and keep salmon alive. Otherwise, irrigation and drinking water would become saline and the coastal salmon industry would die.

"If I win," Trump promised, "believe me, we're going to start opening up the water so that you can have your farmers survive."

First, government is the savior, not the villain. It provides much of the agriculture water, and at relatively cheap prices.

Second, the rest is pumped by farmers from depleting aquifers. They're drying up the wells of their neighbors and nearby little towns.

Last year, in the midst of catastrophic drought, growers became even thirstier by planting 60,000 more acres of profitable almonds.

Meanwhile, fertilizers contaminate local water supplies.

But the billionaire real estate developer hasn't a clue and apparently doesn't care.

5. Clinton is difficult to criticize on issues because she hasn't taken a firm stand on hardly anything.

How would she improve voters' lives? What's her message, other than that Trump is despicable? That may be good enough for Brown, but millions want more.

She made a mistake by flip-flopping on her promise to debate Sanders again before the California primary. She tends to shine in debates.

Yes, you could call all this nitpicking.

Follow @LATimesSkelton on Twitter

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