For four days this week Garry Trudeau has been writing and drawing about the marijuana business. Each strip greater than the last. In our time the cartoonists are the realest realists.
Trudeau published a set of Doonesbury strips in response to the raid ordered by Attorney General Lungren that closed down the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club in early August, 1996. This is the story as we reported it at the time:
On September 8 John Entwistle had gotten a call from a friend who said he’d been at a party with Trudeau (a longtime advocate of reforming the marijuana laws) and that the cartoonist had expressed serious interest when the conversation turned to Proposition 215 and the recent bust of the Cannabis Buyers Club. Entwistle then spoke to Trudeau on the phone and sent him a packet of news stories describing the bust and the general situation.
On Monday, Sept. 30 the Chronicle, the LA Times, and many other papers in California ran a Doonesbury strip in which Zonker’s friend Cornell says, “I can’t get hold of any pot for our AIDS patients. Our regular sources have been spooked ever since the Cannabis Buyers’ Club in San Francisco got raided…”
Attorney General Lungren feared the impact these strips would have on the Prop 215 campaign. He urged the publishers who carry Doonesbury to spike the entire set. “Alternatively,” he suggested in a letter to them, “your organization should consider running a disclaimer side-by-side with the strips which states the known facts related to the Cannabis Buyers Club.”
Lungren provided an op-ed piece stating the facts as determined by his BNE investigators. The club “Sold marijuana to teenagers. Sold marijuana to adults without doctors’ notes. Sold marijuana to people with fake doctors’ notes using phony doctors names and in some cases written on scrap paper. Allowed many small children inside the club where they were exposed for lengthy periods of time to second-hand marijuana smoke. Sold marijuana to people whose stated ailments included vaginal yeast infections, insomnia, sore backs and colitis —hardly terminal diseases. Sold marijuana in amounts as large as two pounds, greatly exceeding the club’s ‘rules.’”
Lungren called a press conference for Tuesday, Oct. 1, to reveal some of the evidence that had been assembled against Peron and the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. During the question-and-answer session he got irritated by a question about Doonesbury. “Skin flushed and voiced raised, Attorney General Dan Lungren went head-to-head with a comic strip Tuesday…” is how Robert Salladay began his Oakland Tribune story. Don Asmussen in the SF Examiner lampooned “Lungren’s War on Comics.” The New York Times devoted two full columns to the brouhaha, including a quote from Peron: “Crybaby Lungren… I think he’s just gone off the deep end. Waaa!”
According to the polls, a gradual decline in support for Prop 215 ended Oct. 1. Lungren had Peron arrested Oct. 5 on criminal charges that included conspiracy to distribute marijuana —one more effort to make the vote a referendum on the proprietor of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. But with only seven more propaganda days till the election, Proposition 215 leads in the polls, 50-40 with 10 percent undecided.
Here’s the Doonesbury strip that ran on October 1, 1996 (day two of the series). You can see why Attorney General Lungren wanted to suppress it.