Tuesday, January 26, 2010

LA City Council members talk about their marijuana use

The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday is expected to approve a new
ordinance that would shut down most medical marijuana dispensaries in
the city. It would place a cap of 70, with up to about 140 pot shops
grandfathered in. KPCC surveyed councilmembers about whether
they’d ever smoked pot â€" medical or otherwise.

It was 1968, and Councilman Tom LaBonge was a high school kid sweet on a
girl. She offered him some pot.

“I was 15. It was after school. I was visiting a girl. And ya
know, that’s what you did then," said LaBonge.

He said he only did that again a couple more times.

In response to the same query, Councilmember Herb Wesson was coy.

“Let me say this. I know what weed is. I went to college in 1969.
And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.â€

Councilman Paul Koretz sounded a similar tone.

“I won’t comment on what things were done in high school
and college. But I would say at a minimum it’s been many, many
years," he said.

Councilmen Tony Cardenas and Jose Huizar wouldn't even answer the

Many politicians still worry that an affirmative response would hurt
their careers, even though the president of the United States has
acknowledged he smoked pot as a young man.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl seems to have no such worries. Rosendahl, who
said his partner used cannabis for medical reasons before he died of
AIDS, readily admitted he’d smoked pot too.

“Yeah, I have. Sure. So has practically everybody."

Asked if he still smoked, Rosendahl clammed up. “That’s a
private matter."

Councilwoman Jan Perry said she'd never smoked anything because she has
allergies. But her younger sister had ingested marijuana pills before
she passed away at age 35.

“It did help her keep her appetite up and mitigated some of her
symptoms. So I think it would be a lot easier if we just legalized

Councilwoman Janice Hahn â€" the daughter of the late longtime L.A.
County Supervisor Kenny Hahn â€" never dared take a hit of pot.

“My father said ‘don’t do anything that you
don’t want to see on the front page of the L.A. Times
tomorrow.’ So I grew up afraid that I would embarrass my

Like many council members, Richard Alarcon said marijuana was hard to

“Well, ya know I grew up during the hippie era and I’m not
going to say I didn’t. I did. And interestingly, I don’t
think I ever purchased. If somebody was smoking at a party or something,
we would have done it."

Back in the day, they called that freeloading.

“Yes, I was very much a freeloader."

Councilmen Dennis Zine and Bernard Parks â€" both ex-police
officers â€" said they never smoked pot.

"When I joined the LAPD, if you have smoked marijuana or injected any
other drug, you would be disqualified," said Zine, who joined the
department in 1968. The rules have since been relaxed.

Councilman Greig Smith is a reserve LAPD cop, and self-described child
of the '60s. But he said he never used any drugs.

"This is not something I ever wanted to participate in for my personal
body," said Smith.

We didn’t get responses from Councilmen Ed Reyes and Paul

The L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti stiffened when asked.

“I have,†he curtly said.

Does he smoke now?

"No I do not.â€

Councilman LaBonge recalled a party he attended as a teenager.

"I was the best dancer at the party and one of the girls asked me if I
smoke pot, and I felt bad because she thought I danced cool because I
smoked pot, and I said no, I don’t smoke pot," he said.

LaBonge said, "I never wanted to smoke pot again.â€

Except for that one time, he said, when he was in his twenties and
another girl offered it to him.

Now, he says, he prefers the high of hiking Griffith Park.

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