California Lt. Governor Will Back 'Right' Weed Initiative

By Shawn Dwyer 08/12/14

No stranger to supporting marijuana legalization, Gavin Newsom said he will campaign for legalizing pot in '16.

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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently said that he was ready to campaign in 2016 for a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, despite Gov. Jerry Brown's continued resistance.

"Oh, absolutely, if it is the right initiative," he said on Tuesday. Newsom was the featured speaker on the topic of decriminalization of marijuana for the Marin County Bar Association, and was responding to questions about legalization.

Newsom has long been a supporter of legalizing marijuana. But in 2010, the then-mayor of San Francisco declined to back Proposition 19, a ballot initiative to legalize pot, citing too many lingering questions. Two years later, however, he caused a few ripples when he was quoted in the New York Times for saying that politicians need to "come out of the closet" on the issue.

Part of Newsom's support for legalization comes from his acknowledgement that the war on drugs has harmed society, particularly for the poor and minorities.

"For me, it's not about the tax revenue," Newsom said. "I think the war on drugs has been a war on the poor and people of color. I don't like drugs. I don't like drug abuse. But I hate the drug war more."

Newsom also pointed to California's exploding prison population, most of whom are jailed for drug-related crimes, in a recent interview on MSNBC. "In 2007, we had 173,000 people in our prisons," he said on Ronan Farrow Daily. "You start looking at the war on drugs—it’s failed. A trillion dollars wasted. I’m just frustrated."

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.