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Monday, October 19, 2015

Gavin Newsom Steps Back From Marijuana Legalization

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 at 12:51 PM

click to enlarge See you later, legalizer? - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • See you later, legalizer?
For years, cannabis legalization in California has carried an air of inevitability.

With Oregon's legal weed stores opening this month and with sales there brisk, California is now the only West Coast state where adults over 21 can't buy marijuana without a doctor's recommendation. And with polls showing a majority of Americans in favor of an end to cannabis prohibition — even in Texas! — the attitude has been that this is a sure thing.

This is problematic. It is not a sure thing, and there are increasing signs that legalization is in real trouble. 

First, the uneasy coalition of advocates who want cannabis legalized is splintering. Worse, the required political venture capitalist willing to part with $10 million or more to fund the whole thing has not materialized. And now, there are signs that legalization's most prominent pitchman is stepping aside.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — who endorsed legalization shortly after Colorado and Washington went legal in 2012, and who is running for governor in 2018 — announced that he's backing a ballot initiative on gun control. That's a heavy lift — and one that might take precedence over legalization, political observers say.

Newsom's position in the legalization situation can't be understated. While disavowing any use of the plant itself, Newsom has taken every opportunity to declare cannabis prohibition a failure. And in between appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher, Newsom chaired an ACLU task force that issued recommendations on how to legalize.

But lately — when cannabis advocates are patiently waiting to see when billionaire Sean Parker, Newsom's friend and campaign donor, will signal his involvement — Newsom has been awfully quiet. After announcing his gun control initiative in the shadow of 101 California Street, the skyscraper where San Francisco's worst-ever gun massacre took place, Newsom suggested to the San Francisco Chronicle's Matier and Ross that he's no longer hyper-focused on weed.

Newsom's gun control push is for a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and restrictions on ammo sales. To do that, he'll have to take on the NRA, which "will ... keep the gubernatorial candidate so busy he will have little time to get deeply involved with the other initiative he has been close to in recent years — legalizing recreational marijuana," the Chron reported.

We reached out to Newsom's campaign and Sacramento staffers and will update this post if we hear back. In the meantime, it definitely looks like Newsom's attention has wandered away from weed. And that's not encouraging for legalization. 
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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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