Gavin Newsom Says the Year for Marijuana Legalization in California Is 2016

Gavin Newsom with fans.jpg
Now you have a friend in the marijuana business
As the most powerful man in the room milled aimlessly about the bar of the United Irish Cultural Center on Friday, looking for someone who recognized him as United States Congressman, all the attention was focused where it always is whenever Gavin Newsom is in the room: right on the lieutenant governor himself.

Newsom was at the Instituto Laboral de la Raza award dinner hawking copies of his new book, Citizenville, and doing what he does best -- looking good. In addition to the labor leaders and elected officials stepping forward for a moment of his time, Gavin's ear was repeatedly bent by one of the labor movement's fastest-growing segments: the medical marijuana industry.


Ed Rosenthal talked to Newsom about widespread hydroponic farming (as in carrots and tomatoes); Newsom also heard from Harborside Health Center CEO Stephen DeAngelo, who is dueling to the death with the federal Justice Department. And the former San Francisco Mayor, a recent convert to the marijuana legalization movement, also predicted when Californians can expect to finally follower in the footsteps of voters in Colorado and Washington. The right year for marijuana legalization, Newsom said, is 2016.

Newsom, you may recall, has been called to opine on ending the cannabis portion of the Drug War before. In 2010 when Newsom was mayor a and lieutenant governor candidate, he was asked for his thoughts on Proposition 19, the Oaksterdam-backed legalization measure that failed by 5 percentage points. Back then, Newsom was against it -- but now, as he told The New York Times and a nationwide audience on Real Time with Bill Maher, he's all for it.

So what changed? "Candidly, I was close on 19 -- I was really close, I can't even tell you," Newsom told us during a quick interview. "Then I had people come in and say, prescriptively, the language [of the bill was problematic], 'You can't support it.' So I said, 'Okay, I'm not going to touch it.'"

Apparently, the problem isn't with the notion but the execution. "I know we need to tax and regulate and focus on adult use -- I don't have the prescription on how to do it right," Newsom said. "That's where I fall short."

As for "Why 2016," there are ample reasons, he said. For starters, it's a presidential election year, which means greater turnout. It will also give Sacramento policymakers time to reform California's medical marijuana industry -- and "it's incumbent upon us to get that house in order before we can get to the ultimate goal, which is tax and regulate," Newsom added.

The lite gov's proclamation that he'd realized marijuana must be legalized, and the revelation that that notion was shared by "hundreds" of other politicians still "in the closet" on the issue made the front page of The New York Times -- and shucks, was he surprised! "I kept saying, 'Why is no one asking me the question?'" he told us. "And then a New York Times reporter called me and asked me the question -- and then my position ended up being on the front page of The New York Times.'"

Funny how that happens.



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9 comments
Jan Blum
Jan Blum

I hope no one really cares what he says...

caravan70
caravan70

Give Gavin a little credit.  At least he's on the issue, even if he's not necessarily out in front of it.  Yes, he's a political animal, but he's a fairly principled one.  He didn't have to issue marriage licenses to over 4,000 couples (getting him in trouble with much of the Democratic establishment).  Sure, he "looks good," but when did that become a political liability?  For my money, he represents much of the future of the Democratic Party in California.  Only here in San Francisco would he be seen as some sort of reactionary.

barryeisenberg
barryeisenberg

Gavin is a political eunuch but he doesn't know it and probably never will.

elizabethfrantes
elizabethfrantes

Rosenthal is an old whore and Gavin is a drunk.  We've had since 1996 to get some action on decriminalizing pot, and it's all up to Congress.  Why doesn't Gavin call his Auntie Pelosi to get off her butt and do something useful?  BTW, it's racketeering under Federal law for elected or appointed officials to collect any revenues from pot, you can't tax something that's technically illegal.  And SF is allegedly a sanctuary city for medical pot?  Too bad they don't tax illegals here the way they've been taxing the clubs . . . 

dogboy
dogboy

Gavin sure has the knack for jumping on the band wagon of no-brainer issues just in time to gain the political benefit but never early enough that he actually has to risk taking a stand on something.

Christraper Sings
Christraper Sings

Gavin is now trying to use Pot legalization to advance politically the same way he used same sex marriage to advance politically. Emphasis on the word 'use'.

BillStewart2012
BillStewart2012

@Christraper Sings Sure, Gavin used the same sex marriage issue to get ahead politically, but he was one of the first politicians to have the guts to just do it, and it really catalyzed the issue for the state and the rest of the country.  

The Democratic Party has entirely no excuse for supporting the drug war.  They know it's wrong, and that it's bad for the country, and they should have the guts to go end it.  (The Republicans know that too, but drug wars are the kind of thing they like, even when they pretend to like small government.)  It's time some of them have the guts to come out and say it. 

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