California Democrats approved adding a position in support of taxing and regulating marijuana to the party’s platform Sunday, despite opposition from Gov. Jerry Brown (D). This is a major shift in the Democratic Party stance on legal marijuana use in the Golden State, and was spearheaded by long-time activist Lanny Swerdlow and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club.
California was the pioneering state for medical marijuana, which was made legal in 1996, but since then has stalled on creating a regulatory structure for cultivation or sales, and the legislature has been unwilling to seriously consider making marijuana legal for adults.
Leading up to the party shift this weekend, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, formerly the mayor of San Francisco, made the case for marijuana, swaying moderate Democrats by reassuring them, “You can be pro-regulation without being an advocate for drug use.”
Newsom’s advocacy was contrary to Gov. Brown’s interview on “Meet the Press” the last week, in which he voiced peculiar concerns over marijuana’s effect on alertness. “The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive,” Brown said. “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.”
The platform language specifically calls on Democrats to “support the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol.” The tipping point in this shift may stem from Colorado’s preliminary tax revenue generation of $2 million dollars for the month of January. However, revenue clearly is not the only factor; a recent Field Poll found a 55% majority of voters support legalization.