Capitol Alert

California’s largest political party just endorsed legalizing marijuana

Six years ago, the California Democratic Party joined most of its elected leaders in declining to endorse the marijuana legalization initiative on the fall ballot.

In arguing for a neutral position, Democratic activists said they were worried an endorsement would harm their leading candidates, Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer, who were in competitive contests for governor and the U.S. Senate.

This year’s measure to legalize recreational pot, however, has stirred no similar concerns. On Sunday, at their executive board meeting in Long Beach, Democrats opted to embrace the pot proposal after hearing from one of its chief supporters, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading candidate to succeed Brown as governor in 2019.

County Democratic parties in Los Angeles and San Francisco recently offered their own support for legitimizing marijuana, joining Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu of Torrance and Jared Huffman of San Rafael. Campaigning ahead of the state’s June 7 primary, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he would vote in favor of legal cannabis in November if he were a resident of the state.

Some party activists, including a representative for a marijuana growers association, had wanted the party to take no position, a point seized on by the opposition campaign. “There’s a real concern that the proponents got it wrong again,” spokesperson Tim Rosales said Monday.

Still, they did not call for a debate on the issue last weekend, and more Democratic support is expected to follow. Boxer, who, like Newsom, opposed the Proposition 19 legalization measure in 2010, indicated recently that she may come aboard this year. Plugging her new book, “The Art of Tough,” on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” Boxer said “I’m leaning in favor.”

“There’s just one issue that’s a serious one I am looking at, which is worrisome from Colorado and Washington state where they have seen ... driver fatalities go up,” Boxer said. “But, there is something in the initiative that does address it. So, I am hoping that I’ll be able to support it this time.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, meanwhile, said recently she remains opposed to legalization.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago