During a Tuesday morning appearance on MSNBC's "Ronan Farrow Daily," California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) made a strong departure from the marijuana policies of his boss, Gov. Jerry Brown (D).
When asked by Farrow why he's coming out against Brown on marijuana, Newsom said that he's been frustrated for some time, citing the tremendous increase in California's prison population.
"I remember in 1977 when Gov. Brown was first in office, we went from indeterminate sentencing to determinate sentencing -- we had 20,000 people in our prisons. In 2007, we had 173,000 people in our prisons. You start looking at the war on drugs, you look at the corollaries as it relates to mandatory minimums and our aggressive efforts -- particularly as it relates to people of color and poor communities -- to incarcerate our way to solving this problem, it’s failed. A trillion dollars wasted, I’m just frustrated."
There is approximately one marijuana arrest every minute in the U.S., and as Newsom suggested, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union. And more than four decades after President Richard Nixon first declared a "war on drugs" in 1971, the U.S. has spent upwards of $1 trillion dollars fighting the battle.
Newsom's point of view on marijuana legalization appears to line up with state voters. A recent poll found that for the first time ever, a majority of Californians support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The state legalized medical marijuana more than 17 years ago.
"With respect to Gov. Brown who I admire greatly and am looking forward to serving with him for another four years as our governor of California, I think he’s wrong on this," Newsom added. "I think it’s wrong to use language like 'potheads' or 'stoners' or 'hippies'. I think this is a serious issue and it requires a serious debate. It’s impacting too many people and too many lives and it’s costing the tax payers a fortune."
Earlier this month, Brown made waves when he said that he's not convinced that legalizing marijuana is a good idea because the population needs to "stay alert." He called out "potheads" specifically.
"The problem with anything, a certain amount is okay," Brown said on NBC's Meet the Press. "But there is a tendency to go to extremes. And all of a sudden, if there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world's pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."
Newsom went on to say that Americans need to be honest about marijuana policy, saying that as a parent of three young children, of course he doesn't want to see marijuana advertising targeted at children or more drug use in the U.S., "but let’s just disabuse ourselves of this mirage that somehow we can have a drug free society if we continue on this mass incarceration binge that we’ve been on the last forty years, it just hasn’t worked," Newsom said. "It’s time to move in a new direction."