Gavin Newsom is Still Marijuana Legalization's Best Friend

No California politician is safe from marijuana — or at least no elected official can step out of doors without the risk of being asked about the magic plant. 

California will likely legalize marijuana at the 2016 ballot; even Gov. Jerry Brown thinks so, according to people present on his recent trip to Mexico. If there's a ballot initiative campaign, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom hopes to lead the charge, he told a group of voters at a Marin County meeting yesterday.

Other key Democrats aren't quite as sure of themselves: Attorney General Kamala Harris this week attempted to laugh off a question about her support for legalization.

As for other electeds? Don't ask. Or if you do, prepare for something far less friendly than a dodge and a laugh.

[jump] Harris's reluctance to engage is a bit confusing: she's an African-American woman who heads law enforcement in America's most-populous state; surely the link between drugs, race, and the incarceration state is one she'd be eager to break. (There's also the marijuana advocates who supported Harris in her wafer-thin victory in the attorney general race in 2010 over Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley).

But there it is: a laugh and a next question, as captured by Sacramento-area TV station KCRA, and encapsulated in a GIF by our friends at

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the former San Francisco mayor, is one of legalization's staunchest opponents, using every excuse in the book to keep on the side of prohibition.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, who until recently was easily the most-powerful San Franciscan as Speaker of the House of Representatives, has been a quiet but steady supporter of drug reform. She voted in support of the Congressional effort to de-fund the drug war in May.

Mayor Ed Lee said very little during the Justice Department's crackdown on San Francisco medical cannabis dispensaries, but ultimately sided with Harris and others who said federal raids shouldn't happen. Other than that he's said very little, but with the tech community so supportive of drug policy reform, an endorsement from Lee could be one Ron Conway phone call away.

(Willie Brown, it should be noted, counts medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Center as one of his clients).

So really, it's just Feinstein who's out of step with a majority of her constituents on this issue. Could the venerable senator be swayed? Can Gavin charm her into what would be a big flip-flop? Maybe, but it probably won't matter: if legalization gets to the ballot, it'll almost certainly pass, and Gavin will be there to lead the party.

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