SACRAMENTO — The billowing cloud of legal second-hand marijuana smoke may waft into California from Colorado on the Santa Ana winds, or south from Washington state, but Gov. Jerry Brown (D) isn’t going to be the one pushing to legalize the drug for recreational usage here.
In an interview Friday, Brown acknowledged that a legalization measure is likely to be on the ballot at some point, given California’s long tradition of direct democracy through the initiative process. But, he said, he will take a wait-and-see approach after marijuana was made legal in Colorado and Washington.
“I do think America’s under a certain amount of competitive pressure. We like to think of ourselves as the leading power, and we’re an aging 4 percent of the world’s 7.2 billion people. So I think we have to stay alert and heads up. I don’t know if everybody’s going to pot that that’s going to be a positive path forward,” Brown said.
He added: “But I mean I’m a tolerant fellow, and let’s see how — maybe the Rocky Mountain high will provide some kind of inspiration. But I’d rather let them test it first, in the laboratories of democracy called the states. But this is a pretty liberal state, and I’m sure there will be people raring to put something on the ballot at some point.”
California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, becoming the first state to legalize marijuana used for medicinal purposes (New York will become the 21st state to allow legal medical-marijuana use later this year). Brown’s predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), signed a measure in 2010 decriminalizing possession of an ounce or less.
The state produces more marijuana than any other state in the country, by far. California’s marijuana crop was valued at nearly $15 billion in 2006, according to the pro-legalization group DrugScience.org — more than the next three largest-producing states in the country combined.
Brown won’t be pushing to take advantage of that fact. “I’m not leading any charge for further chemical interactions,” he said. “We’ve got an awful lot of that going on right now, starting with Ritalin with little kids.”