Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants to wait and see what happens in Colorado and Washington State before California tries to legalize pot.
Brown appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” March 2 and discussed the future of marijuana law in the Golden State. The governor, once famous for his liberalism, has surprised Californians with his moderate stands on many issues.
Brown, who first served as governor from 1975 to 1983, was re-elected in 2010. He is running for an unprecedented fourth term this year.
The governor said California’s medical cannabis system is already “very close” to the legal weed sold in Colorado and Washington.
“I’d really like those two states to show us how it’s going to work,” Brown said.
Voters in the two states legalized recreational weed in 2012. The first retail pot shops opened in Colorado Jan. 1, and stores will open in Washington in the spring.
Most Californians support legalization. A poll released late in 2013 showed 55 percent of California residents want to make pot legal.
Various competing groups of cannabis advocates filed four separate petitions to legalize weed in the November election. But all of those efforts are now considered dead in the water.
Instead, activists are focusing their time, resources and money on 2016. Proponents may be more united by then, they will have had more time to research and plan, and pro-marijuana turnout will be heavier during a presidential election.
California voters approved medical marijuana in 1996, and the program was expanded in 2003 by the state legislature. But it has long lacked the kind of regulation its opponents say it needs – largely because those opponents block such regulation on the grounds it would legitimize pot.
For that reason, it’s easier to obtain a doctor’s recommendation in California than almost anywhere else in the country. Cannabis critics complain the state’s MMJ system is legalization in disguise. Advocates argue that that’s proof Californians have already grown accustomed to legal weed. Anyway, they say, real legality will bring real regulation.
For his part, Brown, once known as “Governor Moonbeam,” takes a pessimistic view of legal weed’s effect on society. He said he worries about a “tendency to go to extremes.”
“If there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” he asked. “The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”