Capitol Alert

After backing Gavin Newsom, California nurses group gets behind pot legalization

Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, has his photo taken with registered nurses from California and across the nation in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. The politically powerful California Nurses Association endorsed Newsom last year, and on Tuesday endorsed the Proposition 64 marijuana legalization measure.
Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, has his photo taken with registered nurses from California and across the nation in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. The politically powerful California Nurses Association endorsed Newsom last year, and on Tuesday endorsed the Proposition 64 marijuana legalization measure. AP

The California Nurses Association, which last year offered an unusually early endorsement for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2018 gubernatorial bid, on Tuesday announced support for Newsom’s high-stakes fall initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.

“California Nurses believe strongly that the prohibition and criminalization of marijuana has ruined generations of lives, wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer of dollars and failed to protect the public health and safety,” Deborah Burger, the organization’s president said in a prepared statement.

“On balance, Proposition 64 is significantly better for public health and safety than the broken status quo, and we are pleased to endorse it,” she added.

The formal endorsement puts the nurses on the side of the California Medical Association and at odds with the California Hospital Association, which opposes the Proposition 64 legalization proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Proposition 64 was proposed by Donald Lyman, a retired physician and former member of the California Medical Association who in 2011 wrote a white paper for the 40,000-member organization calling for the legalization of marijuana and declaring the federal ban on the drug “a failed public health policy.”

The measure, supported by Newsom and largely funded by billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker, would permit adults 21 years and older to use, share and transport up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow six pot plants.

The Nurses Association, in endorsing Newsom last December, three years before the election, pointed to his support for universal health care as mayor of San Francisco. The organization, which went all in for Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, had a highly visible role in helping Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown beat Republican Meg Whitman in 2010, portraying the wealthy business executive as “Queen Meg.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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