California Governor Jerry Brown is afraid that widespread marijuana legalization could lead to the creation of too many “potheads.” California has had a medical marijuana program since 1996 and it was one of the first states to pursue such a program. More expansive programs have been adopted by states such as Colorado and Washington in recent years however and this has reignited the debate regarding the legal status of marijuana overall. Advocates have been calling for a broader legalization of the drug beyond the medical uses that are permitted by programs such as the one in California. Colorado and Washington have taken a step in that direction but it is still not full legalization.
Brown was confronted with the question regarding marijuana during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday. Brown was on the program to discuss running for a fourth term as California governor, but host David Gregory posed the marijuana question. He asked Brown if the programs in states like Colorado and Washington made him consider the possibility of legalized recreational use in California. Brown replied that the world is a dangerous and competitive place in an economic sense and questioned whether a state could remain great if too many people were getting stoned.
Brown took the opportunity to tie the question to California’s economic recent economic turnaround and suggested that widespread marijuana use could threaten economic development in the state. He suggested that people need to stay “more alert” all day and that “potheads” would be unable to muster the focus or concentration that is needed in the current economic environment. Jerry Brown seems afraid that marijuana legalization would create too many “potheads.”
Brown went on to note that California’s program was not that different from what was implemented recently in Colorado and Washington. He said that he would be keeping a close eye on what is going on in both of those states. If they can “show us how it will work,” Brown implied that he would consider changes to California’s program in the future but that currently he was content with the way the system works in his state. He also warned that there is always a tendency to take things to “extremes” and that further loosening the restrictions on drugs like marijuana could have the unintended consequence of encouraging extreme behavior by removing the legal barrier.
Brown’s comments regarding marijuana were just one component of his “Meet the Press” interview although it was the part that attracted the most attention. Brown also discussed other issues such as drought relief efforts within the state and his own political future. But host David Gregory noted that he knows a good sound bite when he hears it, and implied that it was the question on marijuana that would define the interview.
In one context, Brown’s comments may be somewhat surprising coming from a self-described liberal politician, but his comments seem to follow public opinion in California. A recent opinion poll notes that support for marijuana legalization is growing in the state, and at 55 percent it does represent a majority opinion for the first time, albeit a narrow majority. Jerry Brown is afraid that marijuana legalization may create too many “potheads” and threaten the economic development of California.
By Christopher V. Spencer
On Twitter @CVSpencer79