California Governor Weighs Reversal on Legal Marijuana

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) may be about to flip-flop on marijuana legalization.

The Golden State’s top elected official, long seen as being close to law enforcement, has never been a big fan of ending prohibition. But he just gave a signal that his position could soon change.

In a meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board on Friday, the governor said he is “mulling” whether to endorse Proposition 64, a measure on California’s November ballot that would legalize and regulate marijuana.

Editorial board member Debra Saunders told Marijuana.com that Brown’s comments suggest a possible shift in his thinking on cannabis laws.

In 2014, Brown infuriated legalization advocates by claiming in a Meet the Press interview that legalization would lead to a work force that is too stoned to compete in the global economy.

“The problem with anything, a certain amount is okay. But there is a tendency to go to extremes,” he said. “And all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

But last year Brown did sign a series of bills into law regulating the state’s medical cannabis industry, a move that was largely supported in marijuana law reform circles because it brought increased certainty and legitimacy to the market.

The Chronicle’s editorial board itself has not yet made an official endorsement for or against Proposition 64. In 2010, the paper, along with the vast majority of others in the state, opposed that year’s legalization measure, Proposition 19. Voters defeated it by a 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent margin.

But this year, a growing number of establishment figures are starting to line up in favor of the legalization measure.

For example, the measure itself was drafted by a coalition brought together by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D). In 2010, the then-mayor of San Francisco couldn’t bring himself to issue a public endorsement of Proposition 19.

The San Jose Mercury News editorial board has endorsed this year’s legalization measure even though it opposed the 2010 attempt.

And the Democratic Party of California is on board this time, too. They were officially neutral on Proposition 19.

Brown, who perviously served two terms as governor in the 1970s and 80s, is part of an older generation of politicians who are used to seeing marijuana law reform as a dangerous third-rail of politics that should be avoided.

But his new comments to the Chronicle’s editorial board signal that he could be about stop standing in the way of an issue that’s increasingly being embraced by a new generation of politicians such as Newsom, who is running to replace Brown as the state’s chief executive when his term is up in 2018.

Saunders told Marijuana.com that the editorial board could soon announce its position on Proposition 64 but, like Brown, wasn’t willing to reveal which way the endorsement will come out.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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