A state Capitol hearing today on how Proposition 19 may affect the future universe of California produced such disparate views that Assemblyman Tom Ammiano pondered the potential outcomes as perhaps only he can.
"A drug czar today could be on Dancing With the Stars tomorrow," he said.
It was a light moment in a otherwise serious discussion over how California and its local governments will be impacted if voters pass the initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use, permit small residential cultivation and allow cities and counties to tax and regulate retail pot sales.
On one side of the argument was Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully. Speaking on behalf of the California District Attorneys Association, she argued that the measure would do little or nothing to combat crime and would create an utter morass for local municipalities.
"It will not impede the drug cartels that are coming across our border and actually growing on our state and federal lands," Scully told the joint legislative public safety committee hearing chaired by Ammiano and state Sen. Mark Leno, two San Francisco lawmakers and Prop 19 supporters.
Scully also argued that local governments will be flummoxed by the vagueness of the initiative. And she said the measure "will be so fraught with litigation over its merits...it will take years to ever take effect."
But Prop 19 campaign spokeswoman Dale Sky Jones argued that California's initiative will bring about changes mirroring the end of alcohol prohibition if passed.
"This is the first step to take control away from the criminals," she said, adding: "We don't have illegal grape-growing cartels in our national forests. And they don't take out guns. They take out advertising."
Jones also argued that the flexibility of the measure in allowing local governments to decide whether or not to allow retail pot operations - and determine how to tax them - is a plus.
"I'm not concerned about the patchwork," she said. "Our cities and counties do many things on the local level quite successfully."
RAND Corp. researcher Beau Kilmer reiterated findings of the think tank's recent study, declaring that California marijuana prices could plummet by 80 percent if Proposition 19 passed. Kilmer also said marijuana use could go up by between 50 and 100 percent.
At maximum use, he said, "We would be back to where we were in the 1970s."