Unsurprisingly, California NORML has come out against the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom. Their policy statement, issued August 8, began bold print: "It’s unlikely that any possible replacement candidate will be as favorably attentive to cannabis policy as Governor Newsom. For that reason, California NORML recommends voting NO on the gubernatorial recall."
Righton, righton... But the statement continued, "When other politicians were ducking the issue, then-Lieutenant Governor Newsom became the highest-ranking state official to endorse legal adult use and established a task force to help guide the way. Since becoming governor, Newsom has appointed capable, helpful officials who have been accessible to cannabis advocates."
Both sentences call for some retro messaging. Newsom didn't merely endorse California's "Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which made the ballot in 2016; as Lt. Governor in 2013 he chaired the "Blue Ribbon Commission" that was part of its extended roll-out. Its real purpose was to link Newsom's name to the increasingly popular cause and create the impression that he was ascertaining the wisdom of "experts" and the will of "the people"
After two years of public hearings the commission released a report in July 2015 making 58 recommendations (!), accompanied by a statement from Newsom implying disdain for Prop 215, the history-changing initiative that legalized the herb for medical use in '96. "We have an opportunity to improve the status quo by making marijuana difficult for kids to access, while limiting the unintended consequences that have characterized past ballot initiatives.” The report itself had said, "Our loose regulations regarding medical cannabis serve as an invitation to recreational users to use the medical marijuana system." As if the two cohorts were readily distinguishable.
While the commission was fact-finding, a grassroots group called ReformCA (with help from CaNORML) drafted an initiative that would legalize "recreational use" while applying realistic —rather than impractical and onerous— taxes and regulations. The ReformCA initiative would not, co-author Dale Sky Jones said pointedly, "create a tax regime with the expectation that cannabis tax revenues will be a cash cow for general government operations."
ReformCA folded when billionaire Sean Parker —a major donor to Gavin Newsom— agreed to underwrite an initiative in sync with the Blue Ribbon Commission's recommendations. He would pony up more than $8 million.
As for his appointments since becoming governor, Newsom has not named an experienced cannabis clinician to the Medical Board of California to defend the rights of doctors and patients and push a realistic research agenda. He could win O'Shaughnessy's endorsement by choosing Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD.
Plus Hergenrather is a local hero. The best thing by far ever written about his career was an extensive interview by Beth Bosk in the New Settler Interview, spring-fall 2012. After moving to Sebastopol in '86 with wife Starr and four kids, Hergenrather worked as an ER doc in Santa Rosa. In '99 he became one of the first MDs in the state to create a cannabis-centric practice. A charter member of Tod Mikuriya's California Cannabis Research Medical Group, he has monitored cannabis use by more than 3,000 patients to date. (Starr ran the drama program at Analy High School, directing Broadway-quality musicals twice a year until her retirement in 2019.)
Hergenrather's appointment to the state medical board would be more than a symbolic gesture. His experience, erudition, and cool, professional manner would carry weight with his colleagues.
And the Losers Are...
The CaNORML statement also dealt with Question 2 on the recall ballot —which of the 46 aspirants should face Newsom if Question 1 passes. It appears that some would indeed be more "favorably attentive to marijuana policy" as Newsom, but of course they don't have a prayer
"Democratic candidate Jacqueline McGowan boasts experience as a cannabis advocate. An avowed medical cannabis patient, McGowan has actively lobbied local governments for common-sense regulations and permitting since 2014. McGowan is highly critical of Prop. 64 for over-regulating and taxing the industry and generally supports more access for all adults, especially patients."
"Kevin Paffrath, a real estate investor and financial advisor with a large YouTube following, has emerged as a possible contender in one poll. Paffrath is one of the few candidates to mention cannabis on his website, criticizing the state’s inept efforts to stem the illegal market.
"San Diego ex-Mayor Kevin Faulconer stayed at arm’s length while the city council moved early on to approve licensed cannabis businesses. Local advocates... complain that he was unresponsive to their inquiries and made snide comments about pot.
"Talk-show host Larry Elder is a conservative Republican with libertarian leanings. In a 2012 show, Elder called it a “mind blower” that marijuana was still illegal in a country with gay marriage and legal abortion. He criticized the federal government for wrongly classifying marijuana as an addictive drug with no medical use; blasted the LA City Council for voting to ban pot dispensaries; and took Santa Monica to task for making it illegal for consenting adults to smoke cigarettes in their own apartment. Elder denounced the war on drugs for aggravating criminality, calling drug use a health, not criminal justice problem. Like Trump, whom he supports, Elder refused to fully disclose his tax returns, but was allowed on the ballot anyhow.
"Hip-hop musician Nickolas Wildstar describes himself as a “Black Sheep Libertarian.” He is also a medical cannabis patient who used to enjoy good medicine under Prop.. 215. He complains he can no longer do so in the for-profit, regulated regime established by Prop 64. He claims Prop. 64 is illegal and proposes introducing legislation (a Peron Act) to remedy the situation. He would cease all future licensing of commercial “for profit” cannabis licenses.
"Businessman John Cox, who has been parading around California with a faux grizzly bear, is out of touch with a state where grizzlies are extinct. In his losing campaign against Newsom in 2018, Cox put his foot in his mouth by suggesting that marijuana users be hospitalized to cure them of substance abuse. He then backtracked by saying he’s “certainly for medical marijuana” and “not necessarily demanding” hospitalization for cannabis users. A devout Catholic, Cox is known for conservative views on social issues.
"Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner has had little to say in her vague campaign. Jenner was outraged on camera in 2014 when her then-wife Kris shared an edible with her mother on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. 'I won’t have it in this house,' said Jenner.
Green party candidate "Dan Kapelovitz, a former journalist for Hustler magazine is a practicing defense attorney. He founded the Radical Law Center, focusing on defense of DUI, drug crimes, sex crimes, animal law, constitutional rights and more. His responses to Cal NORML’s candidate questionnaire reveal him to be solidly in favor of full marijuana legalization and human rights for cannabis users. He is also for lessening of burdensome regulations on cannabis, and strongly for changing federal law.
"L.A. hair stylist Heather Collins, “absolutely” supports legal cannabis and would fight to have it legalized federally. She supports lower taxes and regulations in line with other comparable businesses, local control of licensed sales, and shutting down illegal shops."