Lt. Gov. Newsom Wants Californians to Support Marijuana Initiative, But Will It Lose the Stoner Vote?

While the fight to drag California out of the clutches of prohibition has been ugly and borderline slanderous, a recent editorial by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom suggests the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA) is the smartest approach to ending the travesty of the drug war in the Golden State.

In a seeming attempt to lure in that percentage of California voters still on the fence about launching a recreational marijuana market, Newsom said that the current law has allowed too many people to be locked up for drug offenses, while the resources spent on treatment and prevention have been next to none.

“Given the high cost and ineffectiveness of the status quo, you don’t have to be ‘pro-marijuana’ to be ‘anti-prohibition,’” he wrote for the Modesto Bee.

Newsom goes on to explain that his support for the AUMA is strengthened by the initiative’s ability to benefit Californians through increased public safety and economic growth.

“By establishing a legal, taxed and tightly regulated system, we can offer new protections for our kids, our communities and our environment, while adopting a best-practices framework for responsible adult marijuana use and its impacts,” Newsom wrote. “We can also raise much-needed revenues to expand drug treatment and prevention programs, and protect our public lands from the environmental and water impacts of illegal marijuana grows.”

Although the AUMA appears to be the best shot at legalizing a California cannabis industry in the upcoming November election, not every supporter of the cause is thrilled about the guts of the initiative. Many argue the proposal is simply “softer prohibition” because of its restrictions on home cultivation (six plants) and the application of new criminal penalties for cannabis-related offenses, while others feel it dismisses the “stoner vote” in an attempt to attract the newly glammed up model of cannabis culture. 

“They figure that [stoners] are a small percent of the population overall; and they hedged their bets that trying to win over the 'soccer mom 'vote was a more desirable option," Mickey Martin wrote in a recent article opposing the AUMA. "What they failed to consider was that every soccer mom has a brother, uncle, or friend who is their 'go-to stoner' who they will ask for their opinion before casting their vote.”

Regardless of the initiative's imperfections, none of the other groups working to pass their concept of legalization appear to have the financial girth or political influence to even be competitive. In addition to the endorsement of Lieutenant Governor Newsom—not to mention the support of national drug reform organizations, the NAACP and the California Medical Association—the AUMA has already banked several million dollars to ensure a successful signature collecting campaign.

A report published last year by Bloomberg suggested that in order for a ballot measure to be successful in California this year, it would need to spend at least $20 million to combat the $10 million that opposing forces will inevitably lay down to run the campaign into the ground. 

In closing his article, Newsom urged voters to support the AUMA at the polls this November because he feels it “strikes the right balance, setting in place strong protections for the public while allowing enough flexibility for regulators to tweak the marijuana market to make sure our kids and communities are safe.”

Some of the latest statistics indicate that California is fully prepared to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016. A recent Probolsky Research poll found that 60 percent of the respondents favored passing an initiative that would allow weed to be taxed and regulated by the state. 

But the controversy being drummed up by marijuana advocates could prevent legalization from happening altogether.

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