When The Associated Press released a story that reported Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said marijuana is "not a drug," press secretary Aaron McLear was quick to announce that Schwarzenegger was joking. During an interview with Piers Morgan, a judge of "America's Got Talent," the governator had said that he had never taken drugs, even though he has admitted to smoking marijuana and the 1977 documentary film, "Pumping Iron," showed him inhaling.
So Schwarzenegger quipped, "That is not a drug. It's a leaf. My drug was pumping iron, trust me."
McLear told me that just as Schwarzenegger is more playful when appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," with some TV personalities, Schwarzenegger "says things that are a bit more shocking because he's playing to the audience." And: "The governor was not taking marijuana off the drug list. This was a light-hearted interview."
Too bad. I was hoping that Schwarzenegger was signaling a more sane drug policy for California -- one that would direct the state not to waste money on marijuana enforcement, so that police can concentrate on violent crime or drugs that, unlike marijuana, kill people.
"The thing about Gov. Schwarzenegger is, we all know that he smoked marijuana," noted Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project. "He is one of a great many accomplished people who smoked marijuana and have gone on to lead a successful life."
Mayor Gavin Newsom is the rare politician to take on the war on drugs. As CBS's Hank Plante reported earlier this month, Newsom said, "If you want to get serious, if you want to reduce crime by 70 percent in this country overnight, end this war on drugs."
I called Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes to discuss Newsom's remarks -- and figured Delagnes, who spent more than a decade on the drug beat -- would take me on when I told him I think marijuana should be legal.
Instead, Delagnes said, "So do I." Delagnes added that unlike methamphetamine and heroin, "You can't really die from marijuana; all it can do is fry your brain." (Be it noted: Frying your brain is not a good thing.)
"Ask any cop if they'd rather arrest somebody who is drunk or somebody who is stoned," Mirken had asked rhetorically. For Delagnes, the answer was easy. Tell a man who is stoned to put his hands against the wall, "he'll probably say that's cool."
But a drunk might just react violently.