California’s second-in-command has taken a firm stand against his boss when it comes to legal marijuana.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily March 18, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom tore into Gov. Jerry Brown for denigrating tokers and calling legalization a danger to national security.
“With respect to Gov. Brown, who I admire greatly and am looking forward to serving with him for another four years as our governor of California, I think he’s wrong on this,” Newsom said. “I think it’s wrong to use language like ‘potheads’ or ‘stoners’ or ‘hippies.’ I think this is a serious issue, and it requires a serious debate. It’s impacting too many people and too many lives, and it’s costing the tax payers a fortune.”
Newsom pointed to the massive overcrowding in California’s prisons over the last few decades as proof of the problems created by prohibition of cannabis.
“I remember in 1977, when Gov. Brown was first in office, we went from indeterminate sentencing to determinate sentencing,” Newsom said. “We had 20,000 people in our prisons. In 2007, we had 173,000 people in our prisons. You start looking at the war on drugs, you look at the corollaries as it relates to mandatory minimums and our aggressive efforts, particularly as it relates to people of color and poor communities – to incarcerate our way to solving this problem, it’s failed. A trillion dollars wasted, I’m just frustrated.”
Brown was quoted on Meet the Press in early March referring to marijuana users as “potheads” and implying legalization might impair the nation’s ability to compete in the world.
“How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” Brown 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.”
Marijuana proponents have castigated the governor for his statements. Brown, who first held the office from 1975 to 1983, won reelection in 2010 and is running for an unprecedented fourth term this year.
A vote to legalize will likely come before voters during the next governor’s term. Several groups tried to put the issue on the ballot in 2014 but fell short. A more concerted marijuana campaign is already underway for 2016.
Newsom is one of the leaders of that nascent effort, which includes the ACLU and other key players in the reform movement. This year, none of the competing organizations were able to bring in enough money to support a serious political campaign. But that is expected to change in 2016, a presidential election year.