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National marijuana group backs Newsom-Parker legalization bid in California

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Gavin Newsom on financing marijuana dispensaries.
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Gavin Newsom on financing marijuana dispensaries.

The main political campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in California spent months negotiating before finally unveiling its proposal last fall.

The high-stakes talks between deep-pocketed donors, drug-policy reformers, medical doctors, labor unions, environmentalists and many other groups representing professions with an interest in the process were so exhaustive that one observer, only in jest, compared the discussions to the Treaty of Versailles.

With the legalization measure aiming for November, and its would-be competitors faltering with little financial resources, old-school cannabis activists have slowly come to embrace the effort funded by billionaire venture capitalist Sean Parker and supported by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

On Monday, the campaign behind the Newsom-Parker legalization measure announced the backing of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Allen St. Pierre, the group’s chief executive, said the significance of the statewide effort could not be overstated.

“On the matter of ending marijuana prohibition in America,” he said, “as California goes, so too goes the rest of the nation.”

It’s hard to compete with a billionaire who wants to do things his way.

Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML and co-author of the state’s medical marijuana initiative, Proposition. 215.

This being the complicated, and often internecine, world of marijuana politics, there remain some key holdouts. Among the players missing from Monday’s endorsement is Dale Gieringer, the veteran head of California NORML and original co-author of the state’s medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 215.

Gieringer, who supported a competing 2016 legalization measure, lamented by phone that “it’s hard to compete with a billionaire who wants to do things his way.”

Gieringer noted the group he aligned with, Reform California, made no secret about its issues with the Newsom-Parker measure, but added “there were problems in all of the initiatives.” He cautioned about reading too deeply into the fact that the statewide group is withholding its support.

“Our policy remains that we don’t endorse things until they have qualified for the ballot,” he said. “I think we will endorse any (recreational marijuana legalization) ballot measure that gets on the ballot.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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