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California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Is a ‘Thoughtful Measure,’ Says Lt. Gov. Newsom

Gavin Newsom
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

It’s expected that in November, California voters will pass Proposition 64, an initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state.

The political reality is that with such heavyweight actors as Woody Harrelson sitting on the advisory board of policy groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws alongside Bill Maher, Barbara Ehrenreich, Willie Nelson, and Ann Druyan, pot is no longer something to be hidden.

If Prop. 64 becomes law, you can partly give credit to, or — depending on your point of view — blame it on Sean Parker. The multi-billionaire co-founder of the file-sharing service Napster, and the former president of Facebook has long been a strong advocate for legalizing cannabis in California.

According to Jason Kinney, spokesman for Prop. 64, “Sean Parker has been its most generous donor, even though he has no future interest in the marijuana industry and has no plans to enter it. For him, it’s about social justice, and he’s supportive because it’s a cause which has always been dear to his heart.”

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has also endorsed the proposal, calling it a “thoughtful measure” that aligns both with the recommendations of a blue-ribbon commission he created to study the legalization issue and the new medical marijuana laws recently passed by a bipartisan majority of the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Parker has reportedly recently contributed an additional $1.25 million to the campaign for Prop. 64, bringing his total contributions so far to $2.5 million — approximately a third of the $8 million raised so far. Much of the money has been spent on a petition drive to qualify the measure for the ballot. If approved by voters on Nov. 8 — which looks increasingly likely — the ballot measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess, transport, and use up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants. The measure would also impose a 15% tax on retail sales of the drug.

The measure is supported by the California Academy of Preventative Medicine and the California Medical Assn., bipartisan elected officials including Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu and Jared Huffman and Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, and a broad coalition including environmental leaders, business owners, small farmers, civil rights groups, public safety experts, and social justice advocates.

Opposition to the measure is led by the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, which has reportedly raised about $163,000 from groups including the Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs State PAC, the California District Attorneys Assn., and the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Assn.
Addressing Prop. 64’s critics, Kinney says the consensus measure includes “strong safeguards” for children, workers, local governments and small businesses and strict anti-monopoly provisions and the toughest warning label and marketing-to-kids laws in the nation.

Newsom says his position on the measure is “a much more nuanced one”; “I’m not pro-marijuana, I’m anti-prohibition,” he says. “And you don’t have to be pro-marijuana to be pro-legalization. The simple fact is, prohibition has failed and we can do so much better. That’s why we’re trying to get broad-based support for the measure and that includes Hollywood and the entire entertainment industry.”

Newsom notes that the entertainment business “has been a leader and has played an outsized role in raising awareness about this whole issue. I believe it will really help make all our efforts successful in November.”

Adds Kinney, “We’ve had a lot of support from Hollywood, but we didn’t write this measure for Hollywood; it’s for all Californians.”