Marijuana Legalization: California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom To Head ACLU Panel

CALIFORNIA: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will head the American Civil Liberties Union’s new panel studying marijuana legalization in California, with an eye toward drafting a measure for 2016’s presidential-year ballot.

“The prohibition of marijuana has had an enormous human and financial cost in communities across this state,” Newsom said in a statement Thursday. “It is far past time for Californians to take a serious look at smarter approaches to marijuana, and it is imperative that happen before any marijuana ballot initiative gets underway.”

Voters in Washington state and Colorado approved legalization measures last year, though California voters rejected one in 2010. The ACLU panel over the next 18 to 24 months will monitor how Washington and Colorado implement their laws, producing research papers and holding forums across the state for the public and policymakers.

Newsom has supported legalization for some time. He told The New York Times late last year that “these laws just don’t make sense anymore” and “it’s time for politicians to come out of the closet on this.”

One proposed marijuana legalization ballot measure already is circulating for signatures to put it on the November 2014 ballot. And another now awaits its official title and summary before it can start circulating.

Proposition 19, California’s legalization measure, was defeated three years ago with a 53.5 percent “no” vote. But the ACLU on Thursday rolled out new polling data showing that 65 percent of California’s likely voters in 2016 support legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana for adults. Among political affiliations, 74 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents support such a measure, while Republicans are split — 47 percent in support, 50 percent opposed.

Majorities across every region of the state support it, from 73 percent in the Bay Area to 58 percent in the more conservative Inland Empire region of Southern California. Support spans ethnic lines as well: Legalization is supported by 74 percent of African-Americans, 69 percent of whites and 53 percent of Latinos. Majorities of both genders and all age groups support it as well.

 

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