Prop. 64 Heavy on Cash, Light on Support

Backed by wealthy venture capitalists and business interests eager to see California expand its huge cannabis market, Prop. 64 has no problems raising money.

Political support is another story.

Prop. 64, the Nov. 8 ballot initiative that would make small amounts of recreational marijuana legal for people over 21 in California, has had a tough time lining up endorsements from major political officials.

The list of statewide office holders to publicly endorse the initiative begins and ends with one name: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

And while Newsom has been consistent with his support of Prop. 64, his comments about the initiative can arguably be described as less than wholeheartedly enthusiastic.

Essentially, the former San Francisco mayor (and candidate for governor in 2018) says Prop. 64 isn't perfect, but it's better than previous cannabis initiatives. And the time has come for California to regulate recreational marijuana, even imperfectly.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has come out strongly opposed to Prop. 64. Other prominent  lights in the California political world have ducked the issue or are treading water, claiming they are still thinking about it.

Prominent in the treading-water camp is Gov. Jerry Brown. More than any governor in California history, Brown has a legacy with cannabis legislation.

The state's most serious attempt to regulate the product on the medical side occurred last year under Brown's stewardship. He signed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act into existence.

While the governor does not seek credit for the 2015 legislative package that became the state's first cannabis regulation framework since the Compassionate Use Act was passed by voters in 1996, Brown's office kept the legislation on track.

Without backroom coaxing from the governor's office, the trio of regulatory bills would not have passed both houses in 2015.

Brown is clearly interested in moving the clock forward on marijuana. But in remarks around the state this summer, he has been strictly coy when asked about Prop. 64.

Only four of California's 53 members of Congress have endorsed the initiative. Just seven State Assembly members (out of 80) and only one state senator (out of 40) have publicly announced support.

Prop. 64 may not need traditional political endorsements to pass. Polling this summer showed it was popular with about 60 percent of voters. Recreational cannabis is a subject that needs no explanation for people headed to the polls.

Still, the absence of major political endorsements raises questions about the popularity and specifics of Prop. 64. Do elected officials still fear being aligned with cannabis? Or do they favor liberalization but believe Prop. 64 is flawed and not worth their support. 

Submitted by: R.E. Graswich