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Pro-Cannabis Stances Help Candidates Win in California’s Primary Election

Gavin Newsom BigMike Ed Rosenthal California Primary Elections
Gavin Newsom (right) meets with cannabis industry leaders BigMike Straumietis (left) and Ed Rosenthal.
Photo Courtesy Advanced Nutrients


Pro-Cannabis Stances Help Candidates Win in California’s Primary Election

The biggest state in the union had its midterm primary election this week, and a big theme among many of the key winners was that they hold a progressive attitude on cannabis.

Californians again proved their support for the elected officials who helped create and continue to fine-tune the world’s largest legal marijuana market. Across the state, these pro-cannabis candidates fended off challengers to find victory, while the state’s U.S. senator switched her position so her opponents wouldn’t have an anti-legalization stance as a tool to be used against her.

Statewide Races Favor Prop 64 Supporters

At the top of the marquee is Gavin Newson, California’s lieutenant governor, former San Francisco mayor and leader of the state’s blue-ribbon commission that worked on legalizing adult-use cannabis in the state. Newsom was first elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on the same night that saw Proposition 215 become the first law in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. Newsom’s rise in California politics has mirrored the rise of the cannabis conversation nationally, with him now poised to take over for California’s outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown.

Many insiders found the Senate race to be the most interesting. Longtime Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein was able to hold off the first challenge from a surging Kevin De León, and she’ll have to do it again in November when his name is the only other one on the ballot. Feinstein has long advocated against marijuana, and only shifted her stance this year in a response to the critiques of her opponents.

California NORML Deputy Director Ellen Komp put together a roundup of all the big pot-related results and determined De León forcing Feinstein to come out pro-cannabis to be the biggest event coming out of primary season. “The big news is Kevin De León’s candidacy pushing Sen. Dianne Feinstein to budge on the marijuana issue, something she has staunchly opposed,” Komp told Cannabis Now. “It should be an interesting runoff in November.”

California Growers Association Executive Director Hezekiah Allen said he wasn’t surprised by California’s primary results, but that he also found the senate race to be the most interesting, as he personally started to work with drug war enthusiast Feinstein’s staff recently. “Over the last year I’ve been able to work with her staff more and my opinion had changed,” said Allen. “I voted for De Leon, he’s amazing. But Feinstein has come around on the issue, not a champion, but certainly moved on from some bad views she had in the past.”

In other races, cannabis supporters faired well. Xavier Becerra leads the pack to retain his seat as California’s attorney general. Allen told Cannabis Now the organization also has a great working relationship with Becerra. The comptroller race will see Betty Yee on the ballot, and longtime cannabis business banking options supporter Fiona Ma will have a chance to be the state’s next treasurer.

Voters Mixed on Cannabis in Local Races

At the local level, the results were a bit of a mixed bag for cannabis legislation. In Sierra County and in the Yucca Valley, for example, citizens voted to ban all forms of commercial cannabis activity.

“I feel badly for places like Sierra County and Yucca Valley that upheld local prohibitions on regulated cannabis businesses,” said Komp. “But overall the march to progress continues, with the majority of local propositions passing by wide margins, allowing for regulation (and taxation). Also, most of the local taxation levels are more reasonable than we’ve seen of late, with one exception being Merced County, which voted to tax cultivation at $25/square foot or 10 percent of gross receipts.”

Allen weighed in on Sierra County saying 40 members of the growers association who live in that county would be out of home, and out of farm. “It’s always tough when it’s that personal,” said Allen.

The California Cannabis Industry Association found the results to be a strong statement to politicians that their constituents support cannabis legalization.

“This primary election should make it clear to all of California’s cities and counties that their constituents supported Prop 64 in 2016, and continue to support allowing cannabis businesses in their local communities,” said CCIA Communications and Outreach Director Josh Drayton. “Furthermore, this election shows cannabis has become front and center in California politics, and Californians support leadership that have been ahead of the curve or have evolved on cannabis issues.”

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