Legalization is coming to California, soon, and key political leaders are beginning to acknowledge that fact. Gov. Jerry Brown may still oppose legalization, but his political ground is shrinking by the day.
In November, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said she doesn’t oppose legalization. Harris didn’t go so far as to endorse the idea of legal weed, but she said it has “a certain inevitability” to it.
“I am not opposed to the legalization of marijuana,” Harris told Buzzfeed News. “I’m the top cop, and so I have to look at it from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective. I think we are fortunate to have Colorado and Washington be in front of us on this and figuring out the details of what it looks like when it’s legalized.”
Ironically, Harris just won re-election as attorney general by defeating GOP candidate Ron Gold, who pushed for legalization during the campaign. Harris never explicitly opposed the idea, but she rejected Gold’s approach.
Now that Gold is history, Harris may simply be accepting the imminent reality of legal pot in California. She said she still has concerns with aspects of early proposals to legalize.
“There are real issues for law enforcement, [such as] how you will measure someone being under the influence in terms of impairment to drive,” Harris said. “We have seen in the history of this issue for California and other states; if we don’t figure out the details for how it’s going to be legalized, the feds are gonna come in, and I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interest.”
Indeed, worries about federal intervention are a driving force behind the movement to pass reform at the polls in 2016. California’s medical marijuana system, which serves as a quasi-legal market for many people, is notoriously light on state regulation.
A top official in the Department of Justice recently threatened intervention if California doesn’t get its act together. A push to legalize recreational weed will likely come with state-level regulations to address the feds’ issues.
There were four failed attempts to put legalization on the ballot in November. Each of them fell apart early in the year, when it became clear none would secure the kind of high-level funding necessary to pass a ballot initiative in the Golden State.
Most big names in the reform movement decided early on to hold off until 2016. That year will be a presidential election, likely to attract scores of the young voters who favor recreational pot.
The 2016 effort has already drawn the support of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the ACLU, and other political heavy hitters. Brown has vocally opposed the idea, but his comments have had little discernable effect on public opinion, which strongly supports legalization.