Ron Gold, the Republican candidate challenging California Attorney General Kamala Harris in her bid for re-election, said he wants to see the state legalize marijuana and reap the financial rewards.
Gold, a lawyer from Woodland Hills and a former deputy attorney general, said California could use the money that would come with legal weed. The criminal justice system could move its focus away from petty, victimless offenses toward serious crimes, he said.
Gold wants to tax the legal marijuana industry and use the revenue to pay for substance abuse treatment and mental health resources, he said.
“I just think that police resources are so few, and we have so much to do, that going after someone who is having a joint in West Hollywood is about as useful as having another Carter’s Little Liver Pill,” Gold said, referring to the once-popular laxative. “An adult is an adult. If you use those things, and you’re stupid, we can’t bar stupidity.”
Odds Are Long for Candidate
Gold said he wants California to adopt a version of legalization similar to Colorado’s.
He doesn’t have much of a chance of being the one to see it through, however. Harris, a star in the national Democratic Party, is the overwhelming favorite to win in November.
Sadly, she doesn’t see eye to eye with Gold on cannabis. She openly supports medical marijuana, though she has been critical of it, but she has long said she opposes legalization for recreational use.
“Recreational sales would just create new headaches for a beleaguered system that needs to better regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and to assist nonviolent drug offenders,” Harris said as a candidate for the office four years ago.
Top Politicians Against Cannabis Legalization
Most of the state’s other top-ranking Democrats also object to nascent efforts to legalize in 2016. Gov. Jerry Brown, despite his old reputation as “Governor Moonbeam,” has taken a somewhat belligerent stance against legalization.
Brown has joined with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the past to badmouth the notion of legal pot, saying it would lead to traffic fatalities, addiction, and countless other problems.
But Gold isn’t alone. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom also backs legal weed, and is heading a panel of experts in medicine and law enforcement to determine how California could effectively tax and regulate the drug. The end product of that committee could end up on the statewide ballot in 2016.
California Has Tried to Legalize Weed Before
A previous attempt to legalize failed in 2010, with less than half the state voting in favor. But support for the idea has turned around since then, with a small majority saying they want legalization in recent polls.
Four groups tried to launch separate, competing petitions to legalize in 2014, but all four failed. The campaign that was given the best shot fell apart after it became clear the group’s billionaire benefactor, an insurance executive who died last year, couldn’t easily be replaced.
Gold acknowledges he’s not in the mainstream of statewide candidates when it comes to recreational pot. But he pointed out the irony that Harris, typically a liberal, has staked out a position on a popular issue that’s more conservative than that of her Republican opponent.
“Basically, I am to the left of Harris on an issue that’s always been very popular and critical in California,” he said. “I view it as a matter of principle.”