Twenty-nine years ago, Michael Glover, a Democratic state representative from Lawrence, gained legendary status by successfully pushing a bill through the Kansas House that drastically reduced the penalties for possession of marijuana.
That's right. The Kansas House in March 1977 approved 65-60 legislation by Glover that would have applied a maximum $100 fine to the first two possessions of an ounce or less of marijuana.
Fast forward to the present, and Glover, now a Californian, grayer, wiser but still as energetic, is running for office again - this time for a seat in the California Assembly, the legislative equivalent of the House in Kansas.
Glover, 59, of Lake Forest, Calif., said he knows he may be remembered around Kansas as "Marijuana Mike," but he says he has the credentials and experience to make a good assemblyman.
"It's part of history, and I'm not ashamed of it," said Glover, an attorney who represents businesses in workers' compensation claims.
John Solbach, a Lawrence lawyer and former legislator who served with Glover, said Glover was an effective representative.
"He was well-liked. He got along with people from both parties," Solbach said.
But, Solbach added, "Sometimes he would speak when speaking was not the right thing to do."
That's what doomed the marijuana legislation.
On the issues
Here's an excerpt on immigration from Mike Glover's campaign Web site: "I remember helping my father provide for the care and comfort of Mexicans who were temporary employees picking and chopping cotton on our farm in Arkansas in the 1950s. : My father opened the first Mexican food restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas, with the help of those same Mexican families. My personal experience has taught me that we need laborers (the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pointed out that illegal immigrants are "hardworking, and perform tasks that most Americans take for granted, but will not do themselves"). Source: www.michaelglover.org
It passed the House, and even though then-Gov. Robert Bennett was giving signals that he was uneasy with the bill, the momentum for it seemed to gain in the Senate.
But Glover let his guard down, giving an interview with a reporter in which Glover said he smoked marijuana regularly. It was like his cocktail, he said, and he added that he knew of a dealer in Lawrence.
The admission of illegality probably killed the bill, Glover says now. He issued a public apology on the floor of the House, but the attorney general, then Curt Schneider, launched an investigation into Glover, and the marijuana bill died in the Senate on a 17-19 vote.
Two years later, Glover left the Legislature to start practicing law, including stints as a prosecutor and assistant city attorney in Lawrence.
He moved to California about 20 years ago, but still maintains contact with family and friends in Lawrence.
"I talk Kansas up all the time," Glover said. "Kansas is popular in California because of the Midwestern, solid values."
He said he is facing long odds in his current race against incumbent Republican Chuck Devore because Orange County is overwhelmingly Republican.
But, he said, he has faced long odds before.
In 1970, he joined the Army after graduating from Kansas University. But through a quirk in the rules then, he just missed having to go to Vietnam by two weeks.
He was first elected to the House in 1972. He immediately started filing bills to reduce the penalties on marijuana possession.
Glover said when he gave then-House Speaker Pete McGill advance warning about the bill, McGill told him: "I appreciate you giving me a heads-up. We'll give it a fair hearing and then we're going to kill it."
But the tide turned by 1977 when Democrats took control of the House.
Glover said he wasn't a one-issue legislator back then, and that he worked on funding for the university, local mental health facilities and property tax relief.
Because California has term limits, Glover said he has more legislative experience than everyone serving in the Assembly.
"Every issue you deal with in California, you have dealt with in Kansas," he said.
He said reducing marijuana penalties hasn't become an issue in the current campaign, but he still believes it is ridiculous to send people to jail for possession of small amounts of the drug in their homes.
"We're still back in the Dark Ages when it comes to marijuana," he said.