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Don’t get mad, get to the polls

This is it, my last chance to write about dope, and dopes, before Tuesday’s election.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to light up and take another driving test. But I do have a word or two for my pot-happy critics. First, let me get a couple of other things out of the way.

Are you aware that insurance companies are spending millions of dollars trying to get Mike Villines of Clovis elected insurance commissioner?

Probably not, I’m guessing. And why not? Because Villines and the insurance companies don’t want you to know.

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A group called JobsPac, a political action committee of the California Chamber of Commerce, has been paying for the ads that tout Villines, a Republican, and attack his opponent, Sacramento Democrat Dave Jones.

And where did JobsPac get the money for those ads? From Mercury Insurance, Allstate, Anthem Blue Cross and other companies, which together have donated $3.8 million in the last several weeks.

I called to ask Villines to see if he could explain why JobsPac thinks the world of him. He wasn’t available, but here’s part of the response from his staff:

“Mike doesn’t have knowledge of their activities and does not have control over what they do. Mike has made it clear that he will be a tough regulator and will be working to make insurance more affordable and accessible for all consumers.”

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Yeah, sure. But I remember an insurance commissioner in the not too distant past who was in debt to the industry he was supposed to be regulating, and California consumers paid for it.

Quack. Quack. Quack.

Meanwhile, Kathay Feng of Common Cause told me she’s working on a campaign disclosure proposal that would require ads broadcast by political committees to identify in the ad itself who donated the money to pay for it.

Just once, it would be nice to have an election without that nasty stench of politics as usual. Speaking of which, did you catch my colleague Shane Goldmacher’s story about the race for state treasurer?

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One of the candidates, Bill Lockyer, the Democratic incumbent, used $1.2 million in campaign funds people donated to him to help his wife get elected county supervisor. He also spent $16,000 for babysitting and a trip to Disneyland. Meanwhile, his Republican opponent, Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel, has voted on numerous bills that could affect her husband’s business interests, which have received $34 million in state funds over the last four years.

And they want a job in which they’d manage our money.

Disturbing, isn’t it?

Yes, but not as disturbing as the latest from Meg Whitman. Having sunk in the polls, having been booed at a women’s convention and having failed to win Latino support, she stepped up the other day to say that although it breaks her heart, she thinks the illegal immigrant housekeeper who mopped her floors and wiped her kids’ noses for years should be deported.

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Why now?

Maybe because having spent $141 million of her own money, she’s given up on winning enough moderate votes and, in desperation, she’s trying to rally the hard-liners.

I’m getting so worked up, maybe I should light another joint to calm my nerves. I haven’t sparked up since L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich invited me to smoke some marijuana (I chose a brand called Train Wreck) and then drive around the police training course in Granada Hills to see how I managed.

If you missed it, I reported that I didn’t feel as impaired from the medical marijuana as I would have felt with a few drinks of alcohol. Still, my judgment wasn’t sharp. As I noted, the pot probably hit me harder because I’m not a smoker, but that’s something to consider if legalization dramatically lowers the price of pot and emboldens more new smokers to get behind the wheel.

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And the reader reaction?

Pot smokers went nuts. They accused me of being a sellout, a puppet, a hack and a bigot. Some smokers insisted marijuana doesn’t impair driving; others screamed that I’d only established the obvious — that getting high and driving is as stupid as drinking and driving.

Dudes, check your buds. Pot is supposed to relax you.

Yeah, I know I said I was wavering on Prop. 19. But that’s partly because the proposition raises too many legal issues and asks local jurisdictions to work out their own rules and regulations. Yeah, good luck with that. And if you think that under 19 we’d easily be able to tax and regulate marijuana, you’re probably smoking way too much of it.

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But I’m open to opposing views, which is why I spoke at length to Stephen Downing, a retired LAPD deputy chief who is in the minority of law enforcers supporting 19.

Downing believes that lower prices will cut the profits of drug cartels that now rule the California trade, that too much blood has been shed over illicit drug-dealing, that streets would be safer post-legalization, that local jurisdictions deserve local control and that police ought to be freed to focus on more important matters.

“As a cop who spent many years on the street, if I had my choice of dealing with someone who is intoxicated on alcohol or on pot, I would prefer pot to anything, especially when handling a family dispute,” said Downing. “Drunks get mean, pot users get mellow.”

Not the ones who read my column.

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But I agree it makes no sense for booze to be legal and marijuana illegal.

If 19 loses, legalization is sure to be on the ballot again soon, perhaps with fewer flaws. And one of these years, it’s bound to pass. If and when that happens, I hope any proceeds are used to shore up rehab, because the human and financial tolls from alcohol and drug addiction are staggering.

However you feel, take it to the polls Tuesday, shake a fist, make a statement.

Vote early and often.

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steve.lopez@latimes.com


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