Capitol Alert

California prosecutors come out swinging against pot legalization

Don't take marijuana legalization for granted, Gavin Newsom says

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the major proponent of a measure to legalize marijuana in California, speaks about the ballot initiative's chances on June 21, 2016 at a pot conference in Oakland.
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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the major proponent of a measure to legalize marijuana in California, speaks about the ballot initiative's chances on June 21, 2016 at a pot conference in Oakland.

Opponents of a fall ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana grew Thursday when leading county prosecutors came out against Proposition 64.

The California District Attorneys Association’s board of directors, by a unanimous vote, has moved to formalize their well-known distaste for legitimizing the drug. They join the California Police Chiefs Association as major law enforcement opponents of legalization.

Mark Zahner, the district attorneys group’s chief executive, said the Nov. 8 measure “does nothing to help us keep dangerously impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel and injuring or killing innocent Californians.”

Zahner said the measure also allows drug dealers to “infiltrate” the newly created marijuana industry, referring to a provision that permits people with certain drug felony convictions to apply for a license. And he added that it would weaken current regulations governing medical marijuana.

The legalization effort, supported by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, with major funding from billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker, would allow adults 21 years and older to possess, use and share up to an ounce of marijuana, and to cultivate six pot plants. It’s unclear how much of a campaign the prosecutors could wage. They also are opposed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s criminal justice measure, Proposition 57.

Supporters believe the measure, the product of months of negotiations by diverse groups, would actually create a more tightly controlled marijuana market.

They have in the past countered criticism by pointing to sections of the initiative that would prohibit a license to anyone with prior offenses for certain drug trafficking or drug-related offenses involving minors. It also would include funding to establish and enforce a DUI program.

“File this under ‘utterly predictable,’ given this group’s historic right-leaning bias on these issues,” said Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the Proposition 64 campaign.

“The fact is, their opposition is wildly out-of-step with an increasing majority of Californians, who believes that marijuana prohibition and incarceration are costly and discredited policies that aren't keeping anyone safer.”

California was the first state to allow medical marijuana. Now, two decades later, voters are expected to be asked whether to legalize recreational use of the drug. The legalization measure headed for the statewide November ballot is the product o

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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