|Linda Ronstadt with Brown in 1978.|
Once more, as he had in 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown has insulted (and then kinda praised) potheads, this time in a Rolling Stone interview, where he said when asked about California's new law legalizing marijuana:
Brown continued, "[Colorado Gov. John] Hickenlooper says it's working pretty good. He has more experience. I would say the devotion and the zeal of the marijuana people is extraordinary. And far exceeds the mainline church community's, as I encounter it."
Is this more distancing by Brown from his "Governor Moonbeam" image? As Jessica Mitford recorded in a letter on April 23, 1992, SF Chronicle columnist Herb Caen joked that while Bill Clinton claimed he didn't inhale, Jerry Brown had never exhaled. Johnny Carson repeated the joke.
In 1992, I had just learned about the hemp/marijuana connection, from a guy who'd taken me to a Brown campaign event for our first date. Inspired by what I heard, I decided to delve back into politics, both as a hemp activist (for environmental reasons) and as a volunteer for Brown's presidential campaign. Far from being a lazy so-and-so who didn't care about important issues, I was working around the clock: at my paying job, as well as on my two non-paying political causes.
the lead story on the ABC Evening News showed two different men with their faces and voices obscured alleging that marijuana (and cocaine) were used in Brown's house while he was Governor and dating Linda Ronstadt.
My fellow hemp/Brown activists and I tried advising his staff that he ought to make light of the accusations, but instead he issued a blistering response, calling them "false, malicious and absurd" and "part of the Gong Show of presidential politics."
He'd allowed himself to be put on the defensive, and never recovered. Clinton emerged as the front runner, and Brown had to reinvent his career, first as Mayor of Oakland and California Attorney General before being reelected as Governor.
Does Brown blame marijuana for the demise of his 1992 campaign? At least he now acknowledges that cannabis activists are a committed bunch, although he thinks we're too stoned all the time to care about important issues like global warming. I've been a cannabis activist ever since and would like nothing better than for its persecution to end so that I could work on other causes, like voting rights or environmental issues.
I'd warrant that marijuana smokers are in general more aware and active in greater causes than are, say, beer or wine enthusiasts. In fact a booklet published for parents in 1998 by the Salt Lake Education Foundation, featuring a forward by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, included "excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc." as a warning sign of marijuana use. Interestingly enough, Hatch has now introduced a sweeping medical marijuana research bill.
To his credit, Brown signed the bill to decriminalize marijuana in California in 1976 during his first term. Recently, he signed a bill legalizing hemp farming in California (but only after it was amended to only make it legal once the feds did). He also approved a bill ending the practice of kicking medical marijuana patients off organ transplant lists in 2015. But in California, people can still lose their jobs for using marijuana, even with a doctor's recommendation, and cannabis-using patients are routinely kicked off their prescription medications, forced instead onto more dangerous opiate drugs.
Update 6/18: Journalist Sy Hersch recalls smoking pot with Eugene McCarthy and Brown in 1968. “The stuff did little for McCarthy, so he said, but it did much more for Brown,” Mr. Hersh writes. Again, Brown denies.
9/18: He's done it again.