For decades, cannabis was an issue that most elected officials assiduously avoided. How the tide has shifted. In this election’s most closely watched (and arguably, most influential) cannabis campaign, in California, elected officials are coming out in support of legal, regulated cannabis, available to anyone 21 and over. These officials have decided to drop the drug-war rhetoric and instead embrace legalization—for diverse reasons. Bao Nyuyen, the mayor of Garden Grove, sees it primarily as a criminal justice reform issue. Scott Matas, mayor of Desert Hot Springs, sees legalization as an economic windfall. Others side with Prop. 64 for reasons of personal freedom, public safety, and social justice.
The individuals below are just six of dozens of officials who’ve come out in support of the measure. All told, 38 elected officials and 18 public safety officials—ranging from small-town mayors to US congressional representatives to the state’s lieutenant governor—have endorsed Prop. 64.
The legalization movement is a big tent now. People from all walks of life—cannabis consumers or not—have come to see its numerous benefits. It’s encouraging that some elected officials have chosen to lead by example. But legalization is only the beginning. If Prop. 64 passes, the cannabis community will be counting on these leaders to help develop and support thoughtful, responsible policies to help make legalization’s promised benefits become reality.
Bao Nguyen, Garden Grove Mayor
“The most important thing that Proposition 64 does is decriminalizing marijuana use. That’s enough reason for me to support it. We’ve already seen the impacts of current policies on our families, communities, on immigrant communities. It’s not right. As mayor of the City of Garden Grove, I’ve seen how the lack of regulations and current ban on cannabis and access to medical cannabis has affected my city. I think that regulations and decriminalizing, allowing adults to use cannabis recreationally, will not only have a benefit to the economy in terms of being able to generate revenue, but also create a safer community. … It’s not only safe access for adults but it ensures that local cities have the tools to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with the overall local economy.
“But the primary reason I’m supporting it is because it decriminalizes adult use. Our jails are already overcrowded. Our justice system is not necessarily just. I hope that our voters vote on it and they vote for it so that we can decriminalize adult use.”
Scott Matas, Desert Hot Springs Mayor
“Four or five years ago, we were in a fiscal crisis—we were looking at bankruptcy and the city looked at many options and this was one of the options. When you have a $15 million budget each year and you’re looking at over $20 million in revenue—if everything is built out, you’re looking at triple, quadrupling your budget. The things you can do with that is putting more officers on the street, fixing your parks, your roads, and doing the right things for your community and the quality of life issues that are much needed.”
Barb Stanton, Apple Valley Mayor
“I’m in favor of legalization of cannabis and Prop. 64 because I believe we’ve been systematically denied our rights and also the realities of what this natural plant can do for humanity.
“I’ve always been borderline, but the CBD component—the cannabinoids—really caused me to take a second look. Research clearly shows that CBD will alleviate the most horrific conditions in the arena of epilepsy. I saw examples of people who have had a diaphragm that sort of fibrillates constantly. I viewed a film that showing that within 30-seconds [of application], muscle contractions stopped. So it was the research and people reaching out to me and saying ‘Please help us. The state’s licensed us, but you won’t.'”
Tom Campbell, Retired Congressman
“Government should intrude on individual liberty only when necessary. I believe we have far too intrusive government in our country today. If an adult wishes to smoke marijuana, abide by all the laws that prevent such a person from driving or sharing it with a minor, they should be able to do so. I want to add that I’ve never smoked marijuana, do not intend to, do not advise that anybody smoke marijuana—but I also see reasonable limits to government…
“The issue has been in public policy for a long time, and I was open to argument. One of the biggest influences to me was the RAND Corporation study. … They recognized that we are not keeping young people from drugs, we are wasting a lot of money, and we are putting a lot of people in the criminal justice system who then stay there the rest of their life. It’s a racial component too. It’s particularly prevalent that individuals in the African-American community are arrested for drugs more than comparable situated persons of Asian or Caucasian ancestry, and that bothers me too.
“But my primary reason is liberty. Freedom. Individuals should be free. Government should intrude only when necessary.”
Denis O’Leary, Oxnard School District Trustee
“I don’t drink. I’ve never smoked tobacco or anything else in my life. … The reason I believe it should be legalized is it is in our streets. If any 14 year old wants to get ahold of some marijuana, they’re going to get ahold of it. I’d rather the industry be regulated, legal. I also think this would be a major defeat for the Mexican mafia or any other types that abuse society. I’m not going to be advocating that people go out and buy marijuana, just like I don’t advocate people go out to buy alcohol or cigarettes, but legally, they can. I’m hoping that making this legal will bring the industry out of the shadows, bring responsibility to the industry, and with regulation, actually be helpful to a demand that’s already there. People already want this, they already use it. Prohibition against marijuana hasn’t ever worked. It hasn’t worked against alcohol and I think that it’s time that we realize that prohibition of marijuana has only increased the size of our jails for non-violent criminals—what they call criminals…
“It’s out there. Any city in this country has it, and any adult, and even a teenager or kid that wants it, can get it. Now Prop. 64 will not allow that 14 year old to get the marijuana just as liquor stores will not allow the 14 year old to get alcohol.
“I am for responsibility, but I think the responsibility now is that we need to recognize the industry and legitimize it and not throw people in jail because they have a joint.”
Ty Alper, Berkeley School Board Vice President
“The failed war on drugs is really a successful war on black and brown people. Marijuana legalization is a civil rights issue, and Prop. 64 represents an important step towards a criminal justice system that is truly just.”