To legalize pot or not?
That's the question California voters will face in the fall now that the ballot measure has qualified for the November election.
The state's political candidates got to face it Saturday. And their answers — more or less — were no, no, no and no.
When asked whether any of them had ever smoked marijuana, the answers were, again: No — except for the occasional "dunno."
"I am not supporting the initiative," said Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell, unable to comment at length because he was driving at the time. Before hanging up, though, he was able to add: "I've never smoked marijuana in my life."
GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, reiterated her statement this week that Whitman was "absolutely against legalizing marijuana for any reason. She believes we have enough challenges in our society without heading down the path of drug legalization."
Asked whether Whitman had ever smoked it, Pompei said, "I've never asked her, and I would have no idea."
Jarrod Agen, spokesman for Whitman's GOP opponent, Steve Poizner, replied in an e-mail: "Steve has said that he's never used drugs."
Still, Poizner had one of the more interesting takes on the initiative, which would allow licensed retailers to sell up to an ounce of marijuana, generating as much as $1.4 billion in new taxes, according to proponents. Agen said that "like electing Jerry Brown, the idea of legalizing drugs is one more bad idea from a bygone era. Steve Poizner feels we need an across-the-board tax cut to reignite our state's economy, not an attempt to smoke our way out of the budget deficit."
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brown's spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said that because the candidate, as attorney general, is "the state's top law enforcer, and because he has to write the title and summary of the ballot initiative, he's not going to discuss the merits of the initiative until that's done."
Has Brown used marijuana? "I haven't the slightest idea," said Clifford. "And I'm not sure he can be reached today. He and his wife were going hiking."
A spokeswoman for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said she would ask her boss about the initiative, but had not responded by press time. And Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina "opposes the legalization of marijuana," said spokeswoman Amy Thoma.
Chuck DeVore, the conservative California assemblyman trying to unseat Boxer, said he had never used marijuana and that he opposed legalizing it. As he drove through from one tea party rally to another Saturday in Nevada, DeVore raised a number of potential problems, including how challenging it would be to come up with roadside tests to weed out people who were intoxicated behind the wheel.
"What can the police officer do?" DeVore wondered. "Pull out a plate of brownies, and see if you take one?"