CA Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom Calls on California to Lead the Nation in Ending Marijuana Prohibition and Failed Drug War

Press Release April 22, 2013
Media Contact

<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240</p>

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, in a piece on the Huffington Post, has called on his state to lead the nation in ending marijuana prohibition and the failed drug war, as it led in adopting the nation’s first medical marijuana law in 1996.

“It is time for California to decriminalize, tax and regulate marijuana and decide who sells it, who can buy it legally, and for how much. When California became the first state to approve medical marijuana, we led the nation on progressive drug policies, and now it is time to lead again.

“Bolstered by growing public support and building on our initial leadership, Californians must renew our push for common-sense marijuana policy by developing a state level regulatory system and lead the national effort to end draconian laws that favor incarceration over education…

“Marijuana prohibition has caused irreparable harm to millions of people by saddling them with criminal records and the collateral sanctions associated with even marijuana misdemeanors, such as the potential loss of employment, housing, financial aid and child custody. These sanctions and penalties fall disproportionally on African Americans and Latinos, devastating entire communities for generations…

“Changing marijuana laws is one important part of shifting the drug policy paradigm from a criminal framework to one of public health. But it is not enough. Decriminalizing marijuana alone will not solve America's problem with mass incarceration.

“Forty-two years and $1 trillion later, we recognize the "War on Drugs" has not only failed but also created inter-generational social problems that will likely take as long to solve. There is no reason why California cannot set the example for the nation in responding to drugs in a rational and sensible way. It is time to be bold enough to consider the science and the examples set forth by other states and nations.

“The time has come to decriminalize, tax and regulate marijuana — anything less is not enough.”

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, weighed in on the significance of Newsom’s recent statement. “What I find remarkable is that not one sitting governor or U.S. senator has spoken out in favor of legalizing marijuana notwithstanding the fact that a majority of Americans now support that approach,” said Nadelmann.  “But I am confident that it’s only a matter of time until elected officials follow in Gavin Newsom’s bold footsteps as they did with marriage equality.”

Newsom has become a leading voice for marijuana legalization, joining  a small but growing chorus of former and current elected officials who have come out over the past year in support of legalizing marijuana and ending the war on drugs. In a recent appearance on HuffPost Live on March 11, 2013, he called the war on drugs an "abject failure" and said that most politicians are secretly in favor of legalizing marijuana.

In a front page New York Times story, on December 21, 2012, Newsom said he believes marijuana prohibition is counterproductive and voiced his support for making marijuana legal. Mr. Newsom, widely considered a leading contender for California’s governor in 2016, said, “These laws just don’t make sense anymore,” and “it’s time for politicians to come out of the closet on this.”

In November 2011, Newsom kicked off DPA’s International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles with a rousing speech denouncing the war on drugs.

Earlier this year, Newsom interviewed DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann on his Current TV show.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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