Opinion

Gavin Newsom: First step in smarter approach to marijuana is fixing the laws

pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Increasingly, Californians understand the war on drugs has been an abject – and expensive – failure.

Today, we incarcerate too many Americans for non-violent drug crimes, while too few resources are available for effective treatment and prevention. Since drug dealers don’t card, youth are often more likely to have access to marijuana than they are alcohol or tobacco.

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

Simply put, we need a smarter approach.

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. 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.

Since announcing my support for a new approach to the responsible adult use of marijuana, I’ve been focused on bringing an unprecedented coalition of stakeholders to the table and making sure California develops new public policy the right way.

That’s why I convened the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy in 2013 – to look at the best thinking and best practices from academics and leading voices from public safety, public health and communities around the state to make sure any transition to legalization protects children and ensures public safety.

Four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize adult marijuana use, and each offers important lessons for California. But there are circumstances unique to our state that require any policy to take a California-specific approach.

Last year, the Commission released its report with a series of recommendations and best practices for proponents to consider as various ideas were being discussed. While the report did not endorse any specific legalizative proposal, it set clear guidelines for what a responsible and cost-effective policy would be.

First and foremost, all legal and regulatory decisions around legalization should be made with a focus on protecting California’s youth and promoting public health and safety.

A successful marijuana framework would also reduce the size of the black market, offer legal protection to good actors who strive to work within the law, and raise enough revenue to provide resources for substance-abuse treatment, education, public safety and environmental protection.

I believe the California Adult Use of Marijuana Act – which has been endorsed by groups as diverse as the NAACP, the California Medical Association and the California Council of Land Trusts – achieves all of these objectives and I will be urging voters to support it this November.

Passing this consensus initiative will put California on a path toward reasonable and responsible legalization of adult use of marijuana, and sets up a regulatory framework that will allow state and local officials to protect public health, public safety and the environment.

But it’s important for Californians to understand that passing AUMA is just the first step in the process of regulating adult use of marijuana for non-medical purposes. (Medical use of marijuana was legalized in California in 1996.)

It will be a process that unfolds over many years requiring sustained engagement from law enforcement, regulators and the public to ensure it is implemented properly in a way that best serves California.

AUMA 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.

Gavin Newsom is the Lieutenant Governor of California and served as Chair of California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy.

Wondering About Weed

BeeAmplified has invited the community to a free symposium to discuss the prospect of legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults. Details can be found in the special section, Wondering About Weed elsewhere in today’s newspaper. It includes information about the major players in this debate and the other initiatives currently gathering signatures. One, the Marijuana Control, Revenue Legalization Act (MCRL) differs from the AUMA in possession limits .

  • When: Tuesday, March 22, 7 p.m. (doors open 6 p.m.)
  • Where: Gallo Center for the Arts, Foster Family Theater
  • Tickets: All tickets have been reserved for this event. The Bee has a waiting list. You can add your name by calling 209-578-2392.
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