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Here’s Where California’s Next Governor Stands on Cannabis

At a debate among California’s top six gubernatorial candidates earlier this year, the backdrop read El Momento de la Verdad – The Moment of Truth.

“Just for the record,” asked moderator Jorge Ramos, anchor for the Spanish-language news network, Univision, “will you raise your hand if you’ve ever used pot?”

Have you ever used pot? asked the moderator. Antonio Villaraigosa’s hand shot up. ‘And unlike some,’ he said, ‘I inhaled.’

Up went the hands. Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made sure he was out of the gate fastest and boldest. He shot his hand high in the air and kept it there. John Chiang, the state treasurer, inched his hand up to his chin. Then Delaine Eastin, the former state superintendent of public instruction, belatedly raised her arm.

The two leading Republicans, San Diego businessman John Cox and Huntington Beach Assemblyman Travis Allen, didn’t raise their hands. Neither did leading Democratic contender Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor and former San Francisco mayor who successfully championed California’s Proposition 64 adult use legalization measure in 2016.

Villaraigosa, who had endorsed Proposition 64 late in the campaign, excitedly claimed victory on the question.

“And unlike some,” Villaraigosa said, enticing cheers and laughter from the crowd, “I inhaled.”

Gavin vs. Everybody Else

Villaraigosa won the moment, but it’s Newsom who appears to be breathing in the most support from cannabis voters in race to replace retiring Jerry Brown as California governor.

His campaign says he has never consumed cannabis, and Newsom once told The Sacramento Bee“I hate the stuff. Can’t stand it.” But he got out ahead on the issue with Proposition 64 and his anti-Drug War oratory that “the legalization of marijuana is a social justice issue.”

Newsom currently leads in the polls during the run-up to California’s June 5 primary, in which the top two candidates advance to the November general election regardless of party. (NYT reporter Adam Nagourney ran a handy explainer on that recently.) He has raised the  raised the most money – $26 million to $10 million for Villaraigosa. In 2017, he took in more than $300,000 in cannabis industry contributions to just $5,000 for Villaraigosa and little or none for other opponents, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

The Drug Policy Forum of California, in its election critique on cannabis issues, positively rates the four Democratic contenders, Newsom, Villaraigosa, Chaing and Eastin, as “pro-reform” on cannabis policy. Unlike California’s famously right-wing and pro-cannabis GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the Drug Policy Forum lists Republican candidates Cox and Allen as “anti-reform” for cannabis views the group called “nutty” or “dismal.”

“The race for governor features four strong Democrats and two Republican reactionaries,” the Drug Policy Forum said.

Here are the top contenders for California governor and their views on cannabis and other issues. They are listed, bottom to top, based on their chances of reaching the November election runoff according to a recent statewide poll by the University of California Institute of Governmental Studies.

This Map Reveals California’s Hidden Prohibition Problem

6. Delaine Eastin, Democrat

Bio: The only woman among the top six contenders, Eastin, 70, served as California superintendent of public instruction from 1995 to 2003 and in the state Assembly from 1986 to 1994. She is currently chairwoman of Educate our State, which advocates for California schools.

Website: Delaine For Governor  

Campaign: Eastin is calling for passage of single-payer health care in California, along with major state investments to offer universal preschool and tuition-free state university education for California residents.

Cannabis policy:  Eastin supports cannabis decriminalization. She also backs creation of a public bank in California to handle cannabis industry deposits and transactions while providing loans for small businesses, cannabis and otherwise. She believes Proposition 64 should have included revenue investments in mental health programs.

Canna quote: “We must end the War on Drugs in California and begin to treat all addiction, not just alcohol and opioids, as a mental health issue.” That’s from Eastin’s campaign website.

5. John Chiang, Democrat

Bio: A son of Chinese immigrants, Chiang, 55, was elected as state treasurer in 2014, after serving two four-year terms as controller, California’s chief financial officer, and earlier as a member of the Board of Equalization taxation agency.

Website: John Chiang for Governor

Campaign: Chiang is running as “the state’s banker,” citing his fiscal management and his work guiding California back from recession to its robust place as the world’s 5th largest economy. He supports universal health care in California, cutting college tuition rates, policies to fight climate change, vows to confront an anti-immigration “Trump deportation machine.”

Cannabis policy: Chiang took a major leadership role in advocating for banking solutions for California cannabis businesses last year when he headed California’s Cannabis Working Group. The policy panel recommended studies to create a state-regulated credit union or public-private consortium to coordinate financial services for licensed cannabis businesses.

Canna quote: “We are contending with…a multibillion-dollar cannabis industry that needs banking services…Until the slow, clunking machinery of the federal government catches up with the values and will of the people…states like California will continue to both resist and, more importantly, to lead.” That’s from a Chiang press release.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Peter Hecht on Leafly

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Published: May 29, 2018

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