At a recent luncheon with the Marin County Bar Association, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) made it clear that he is ready and willing to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state. Although Newsom stipulated that certain conditions would have to be included in any 2016 initiative, he is in full support of legalizing the drug. This despite a recent statement in which he said, “I don’t want to see it promoted as some good thing; I don’t believe it is” in relation to the potential impact the legalizing and subsequent advertising of marijuana will have on children. On the other hand, Newsom has also said that drug dealers are “out there” and they do not ask for identification so legalizing marijuana is actually “better for our children.”
Newsom has been quite vocal in the past about his support for legalizing marijuana. In 2012, he was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “It’s time for politicians to come out of the closet on this,” and at the recent luncheon in Marin County he stated that marijuana is a “hell of a lot more benign than heroin.” Given his stance, it is probable that those in California who would like to see marijuana legalized for recreational use view Newsom as a champion for the “California Green Rush.”
Newsom not only justifies his support for legalizing marijuana as a way to protect children but also he believes that the war on drugs is a “war on poverty” because of the high incidence of incarceration of the poor and people of color. Newsom further claims that the war on drugs is really a war on addiction and asks the question, “How long before we realize drug addiction isn’t a crime, it’s a disease?” The Lt. Governor has stated that there will “never be a society free of drugs” and that it is time for California to “step in and lead.”
In order for Newsom to endorse a 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, certain factors must be taken into consideration including an imposed age limit of 21 years old. In regards to his own children, Newsom has said that if he finds them smoking pot, “they are grounded.” He is also concerned with how to tax marijuana sales and how to work with the banking industry. Given that selling marijuana is against federal law, banking institutions have some tricky hoops to jump through to avoid violating federal drug laws as they pertain to laundering money for drug dealers. Newsom also wants to see clear guidelines on the smoking of marijuana in public and has concerns about how recreational marijuana will be advertised.
Newsom does seem to have mixed feelings about the use of recreational marijuana and has said that he does not like drug use or abuse. He has also expressed his shock at just how common the use of marijuana is saying that many of these users are, “leaders in our community, and exceptional people” who are “not ashamed” to admit they smoke pot. In California, the stigma against using the drug has dropped to a level where parents often share their stash with their teenaged children and the pungent odor of burning weed wafts over neighborhood fences, at concerts, family gatherings, and local parks. To Californians, smoking marijuana is just not a big deal and it appears that there is more support than ever for legalizing it for recreational use.
Lt. Governor Newsom is ready to support yet another ballot initiative to legalize marijuana and his justifications for doing so seem to be for what he considers the greater good for addicts, the poor and children. However, there is the issue of revenue that cannot be ignored in this legalization equation. While it may be that legalizing recreational marijuana will reduce crime rates and regulate access to the drug, it is also a significant way to build up the state’s coffers and pay for the massive social welfare programs that are driving California’s economy into the ground. The monetary gain to the state may be more of a factor than the so-called benefits to society that politicians, such as Newsom, tend to use to bolster the legalization platform. As the state with the dubious honor of having the highest poverty rate, California can no longer claim to be The Golden State and it seems that a new slogan, that of The Green State may be in California’s not too distant future.
Opinion by Alana Marie Burke