California Legalization Team Blooms to Historic Size

ACLU Prop. 64

With polls showing nearly 60 percent of Californians support the ballot summary of marijuana legalization Proposition 64, and nearly $20 million in campaign donations raised, Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom returned a beginning scene of the 2016 drive to announce history’s broadest coalition on the issue ever.

Lt. Gov. Newsom closed a press conference at the ACLU of Northern California’s main office in downtown San Francisco Monday morning, lauding Prop 64’s endorsements by dozens of current and former elected officials, as well as major groups like the California Democratic Party, the California League of Conservation Voters, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the National Latino Officers Association, and Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.

“This is as broad-based a coalition of support as we’ve ever seen — including a lot private law enforcement support,” Lt. Gov. Newsom said. “All honor to [failed 2010 legalization drive] Proposition 19, this is an exponentially broader coalition than we saw with Prop 19.”

All the state’s major newspapers — including the conservative Orange County Register and San Bernardino Sun — have endorsed the initiative, which legalizes personal pot possession, gardening, and gifts for adults 21 and over, starting Nov. 9 at 12:01 a.m., if passed. New cannabis consumer protections and environmental restoration would be paid for from up to $1 billion in new tax revenue on what could be a $10 billion legal industry.

A new Pew Poll released Friday found 57 percent of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition. The issue now spans party lines, with main divisions being age and geography.

Prop 64 was opposed by the editorial boards in a string of inland and rural cities and counties. The No on 64 group has raised just $2.5 million.

California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and decriminalized personal pot possession in 2010. The state regulated medical cannabis in 2015. Legalization last failed at the ballot box in 2010.

Never have so many active representatives come out in support of a legalization measure.

Assemblymember David Chiu is among the number of state representatives who came out to endorse Prop 64. Chiu joins Prop 64 supporters including from Congressional Reps. Jared Huffman, Barbara Lee, Ted Lieu, Dana Rohrabacher and Eric Salwell.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said, “we’re taking nothing for granted.”

“I don’t want to run the 90-yard dash on this. This is by no means done,” he said. “If we lose, it’ll push back progress across the country.”

He noted 2010’s Prop 19 was doing very well at this point, but then failed.

“We’re working our tail off,” he said, using public appearances, social media and ads on TV. “If we’re able to continue where we are today, with this kind of a pace of energy, we’ll win.”

Newsom was joined by representatives of the ACLU of Northern California, the NAACP, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and Dr. Frank Lucido.

Former state Senator Mark Leno said in opening remarks that the world “cannot stop an idea who’s time has come.”

“It’s critical voters of California pass Proposition 64 by a landslide and send a message to the world,” said James Anthony, former law enforcement official in Oakland.

The initiative explicitly protects patients rights, said Dr. Lucido, who called it “far preferable to the status quo.”

Rep. Chiu, a former political prosecutor, decried the billions of dollars wasted in the war on pot. “This has devastated communities of color,” he said.

Lt. Newsom took questions, and said Prop 64 “is a game-changer, not just in California. The world is looking to us — quite literally.”

The biggest laugh came from when Lt. Gov Newsom said he had discussed legalization with reform opponents, Sen. Diane Feinstein. The two discussed marijuana “over a drink, too.”

“I respect her concerns and share a lot of them,” he said. “The irony is we address those issues.”

Award-winning San Francisco journalist and best-selling author David Downs is a contributor to Cannabis Now. His writing has appeared in Scientific American, WIRED, Rolling Stone and the New York Times.

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