David Fleming, long one of L.A.'s most powerful private citizens, has now become one of its most powerful advocates for drug legalization. The L.A. Daily News has produced a profile of Fleming and his wife Jean, who together have created a new medical-marijuana docudrama entitled Smoke Screen.
"The War on Drugs has cost the American taxpayer $1 trillion since 1972," he said. "We're paying $69 billion a year to make a health problem into a criminal one."
That's the libertarian side of him talking - he's also a board member of the Reason Foundation. But while Fleming can go on at length about drug stats from a policy standpoint, he's also got a personal stake.
His wife, a former Miss Illinois turned actress, suffers debilitating pain from post-polio syndrome. Several months ago, she obtained a prescription for medical marijuana. At night, she takes a few drops of liquid THC or snacks on a pot brownie to ease the pain.
"Here's Jeannie, well-to-do and a pillar of society, using marijuana," Fleming said.
"And I could be thrown in prison by Bush," she interjected.
That's Bush as in President George W. - the one who named her husband as a trustee for the James Madison Foundation, a group of politicians, jurists and two private citizens that hands out scholarships for teachers. Fleming has a photo of him and the president in his office.
The couple have an unusual marriage. He hangs with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. She wears a Barack Obama T-shirt. The two disagree on many political issues, but they vehemently agree about the need for drug-policy reform.
"Look, I'm an old lady, so I can say what I want to," she said. "In the '60s, I used to go to parties where cocaine was passed around and snorted. Nothing ever went up my nose, but I smoked marijuana."