Pubdate: Thu, 23 May 2013
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Debra J. Saunders
Page: A20


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom likes to be out front on issues. As San
Francisco mayor, he approved same-sex marriages in City Hall even
though they weren't legal. He pushed for a first-of-its-kind ban on
city pharmacies selling cigarettes. Likewise, he signed the Special
City's first-in-the-nation ban on grocery stores giving away plastic

Newsom has hailed California's role as the first state to legalize
medical marijuana. So imagine how it must have broken his heart when
Colorado and Washington voters approved measures to legalize
recreational marijuana in November. Now the best California can hope
for is third place.

And he has only himself to blame. In 2010, Newsom did not support
Proposition 19, the ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana
under state (not federal) law.

"This is a hard one for me," Newsom told the San Francisco Appeal at
the time, but "I'm just not there yet." He reiterated his support for
medical marijuana, but voiced concerns about the logistics of full-on
legalization and the message it would send.

But then Newsom has - what's the word politicians use when they
finally say what they thought all along? - evolved.

Newsom's name popped up Monday in a New York Times column by Bill
Keller under the headline, "Hot to Legalize Pot." Keller reported that
Newsom is "part of a group discussing how to impose more order on
California's medical marijuana market, with an eye to offering broader
legalization in 2016."

On HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" recently, Newsom explained his
evolved position. "All these years, I've been sort of dancing around
this" by endorsing medical marijuana, he said. "But finally someone
asked me directly six months ago, and I said what I think. And the
right thing to do is to tax and regulate it because the unintended
consequences of this war on drugs is self-evident abject failure."
Then Newsom called for other politicians to exhibit more courage on
the issue. Really.

The someone who asked, by the way, was New York Times reporter Adam
Nagourney, who questioned Newsom after the Colorado and Washington

Why the change? Newsom has a well-known hunger for headlines. And
Nagourney does work for the - all bow - New York Times.

Last year, Newsom came to the humble Chronicle Editorial Board to
announce that he supported allowing gubernatorial nominees to could
choose their running mates. Gov. Jerry Brown didn't pick his
lieutenant governor; Newsom none-too-wisely complained, "We're at each
other's throats."

But his new leaf on marijuana could be politically brilliant. As Tom
Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, noted, "He's a smart
politician." Newsom wants to get out front on the issue. "He knows
that it's not a political third rail. It's a political benefit."

In February, the Field Poll reported that 54 percent of Californians
support legalizing and taxing marijuana.

In 2010, Newsom was part of the Democratic pack. None of today's
statewide officeholders - not Dao Guv, not great-looking Attorney
General Kamala Harris, not Sen. Barbara Boxer - supported Proposition
19. All three, however, stressed their support for medical marijuana.

For the record, I voted for Prop. 19. I agree with what Newsom now
will say publicly: Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy.

With 2014 and 2016 in the horizon, Newsom is the first statewide
office holder to advocate legalizing marijuana. Bet he won't be the
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