California’s Acting Governor Gavin Newsom Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization

CANNABIS CULTURE – Serving as acting governor while Jerry Brown is in China on a trade mission, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom called for the decriminalization of marijuana in his speech at the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento on April 13.

Newsom, an advocate for gay marriage, said, “I think it’s time for politicians of all stripes to come out of the closet. I think it’s time to decriminalize, to tax and regulate marijuana,” he said to cheers from the nearly 3000 delegates in attendance. “It’s time to own up to the fact that our drug laws have done more harm than good. The war on drugs is an abject failure. In 2011 alone in this country 3/4 of a million of people were arrested for marijuana law violations, 87 percent for simple possession. And listen to me closely: African American children are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than their white counterparts, even though white children are more likely to abuse drugs. We send a higher percentage of African American males to prison and jail in this country than we do to colleges and universities in California.

“So I hope you’re with me. After 42 years of failure, I think it’s time to concede that if we continue to do what we’re done, we’ll continue to get what we’ve got. I think you all deserve better. It’s about standing up on principle. It’s about having the courage of our convictions. It’s about saying publicly what all to often we say privately.”

Newsom then turned his comments to gay marriage and quoted Dr. King on bending the arc of history towards justice to end his speech. Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” was played.

The CADEM conference saw the first outreach booth for the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, a group working towards a marijuana legalization ballot measure in California in 2016.

“The booth was a huge success,” reports CCPR outreach director and CalNORML boardmember Debby Goldsberry. “Our partners with UFCW, LEAP, CA NORML and Sacramento NORML were all in attendance to promote the need to end cannabis prohibition. The reception we all received was warm, intelligent, and full of support.”

An effort is also underway to form a Cannabis and Hemp Caucus within the California Democratic Party, lead by Lanny Swerdlow, who has formed a Brownie Mary Democratic Club in Riverside.

Advocates could hardly ask for a better-looking or more articulate spokesperson than Newsom, who has been making similar comments on Real Time with Bill Maher and elsewhere. His speech at the Convention brought headlines from the
Associated Press.

Ellen Komp is Deputy Director of California NORML and a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website and blogs at Tokin Woman.



  1. Anonymous on

    Just more repetitious nonsense. Give your Attorney General a kick in her head and remind her she promised to defend the laws of the state of California, all of them not just the ones she approves of herself.

    In order to give this any credence you need to get your fed.legislators to back it. Governors have no real say in federal matters.

  2. Anonymous on

    Below are a few citations from an essay that astronomer Carl Sagan wrote in 1969 for Marihuana Reconsidered, a book published by Dr. Lester Grinspoon. At that time Sagan was 35 years old. He continued using cannabis for the rest of his life.

    “The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before. The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I’m down. This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse.”

    “A very similar improvement in my appreciation of music has occurred with cannabis. For the first time I have been able to hear the separate parts of a three-part harmony and the richness of the counterpoint. I have since discovered that professional musicians can quite easily keep many separate parts going simultaneously in their heads, but this was the first time for me. Again, the learning experience when high has at least to some extent carried over when I’m down. The enjoyment of food is amplified; tastes and aromas emerge that for some reason we ordinarily seem to be too busy to notice. I am able to give my full attention to the sensation. A potato will have a texture, a body, and taste like that of other potatoes, but much more so. Cannabis also enhances the enjoyment of sex – on the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of image passing before my eyes. The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking.”

    “I do not consider myself a religious person in the usual sense, but there is a religious aspect to some highs. The heightened sensitivity in all areas gives me a feeling of communion with my surroundings, both animate and inanimate.”

    “When I’m high I can penetrate into the past, recall childhood memories, friends, relatives, playthings, streets, smells, sounds, and tastes from a vanished era. I can reconstruct the actual occurrences in childhood events only half understood at the time. Many but not all my cannabis trips have somewhere in them a symbolism significant to me which I won’t attempt to describe here, a kind of mandala embossed on the high. Free-associating to this mandala, both visually and as plays on words, has produced a very rich array of insights.”

    “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

    Well said, Carl…

    The entire text can be read here: Dr. Lester Grinspoon’s Marijuana Uses

  3. Worm on

    I thought Arnie already decriminalized it.

  4. Anonymous UK on

    Good news – just the sort of advocate we need.