Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240</p>
California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is the latest elected official to call for marijuana legalization. In a front page New York Times story today, 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 policitians to come out of the closet on this.”
Newsom first came to international prominence when, in 2004, as the newly-elected mayor of San Francisco, he issued a directive to the city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“Even as public support for legalizing marijuana and marriage equality have both increased dramatically over the past seven years, with the country now roughly split on both issues, senior elected officials have shied from speaking out in favor of the former,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Gavin Newsom’s leadership is thus all the more important on this issue, as it was with marriage equality.”
Newsom joins a rapidly growing number of former and current political leaders who have come out in support of marijuana legalization and ending the war on drugs over the past year.
In Thursday’s New York Times, the Drug Policy Alliance ran a full-page ad that thanks voters in Colorado and Washington and emphasizes the growing support for drug policy reform among leaders from across the political spectrum.
This year, President Bill Clinton joined several other former presidents in sharply criticizing the war on drugs in the just-released documentary Breaking the Taboo. Meanwhile, two U.S. governors from opposite sides of the aisle who are often mentioned as 2016 presidential candidates – New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Chris Christie – have embraced varying degrees of drug policy reform. Gov. Christie broke ranks with fellow Republicans by calling the drug war a failure, while Gov. Cuomo committed to ending New York’s racially discriminatory marijuana arrest crusade. Even strange bedfellows like evangelical leader Pat Robertson and former President Jimmy Carter spoke out in support of legally regulating marijuana this year. In Latin America, presidents such as Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia), Otto Pérez Molina (Guatemala), and José Mujica (Uruguay) are calling for alternatives to prohibition.
Newsom’s comments come just one week after President Obama commented on marijuana legalization in his first post-election interview – framing the conflict between federal and state law as a question to be resolved and stating that people who use marijuana in states that have legalized it should not be a "top priority" for federal law enforcement.
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.