‘OK, guys, on the count of three…’

At a news conference this morning in Sacramento on the results of state-funded medical-marijuana research, former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, recounted an interesting tale about how the legislation to fund that research was passed.

Vasconcellos started drafting such a bill after California voters had approved Proposition 215 in 1996 to enact the state’s medical-marijuana law; he said it was a bipartisan effort from the get-go, with his staff working alongside then-Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren’s staff to come up with something that worked for everyone.

But when he eventually brought the legislation forward in 1999, it required a 2/3 vote because it involved an $8.7 million appropriation for the research, he said. He had 23 votes lined up in the state Senate, and four additional Republicans — Jim Brulte, John Lewis, Tim Leslie and someone else he couldn’t remember today (looks from the roll call as if it had to be David Kelley, Bruce McPherson or Cathie Wright) — willing to sign on, but none of them wanted to be the 27th and final vote that tipped the bill over into passage.

So, Vasconcellos said, the four Republican Senators agreed to all say “aye” in unison so that none of them (or, I suppose, all of them) would be the final vote.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.