Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom advocates marijuana legalization at cannabis business conference

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Suhauna Hussain/Staff

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OAKLAND — In a speech Tuesday morning, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom urged cannabis industry members to put their best efforts into passing marijuana legalization legislation on November’s ballot.

Newsom addressed cannabis business leaders and activists at the Cannabis Business Summit in Oakland on Tuesday morning. Newsom criticized other Democrats holding elected offices for not publicly taking strong pro-legalization stances and touted himself as one of the few that advocate legalization.

“(The campaign is) not done by any stretch of the imagination. If you think this thing is done in California, you couldn’t be more wrong,” Newsom said at the conference. “So don’t just think because this is a universal state and pluralism is our middle name … that this is going to be easy.”

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or AUMA, proposed for November’s ballot would allow those 21 and older to use, grow and sell limited amounts of marijuana. At the conference, Newsom said a failure to pass this legislation would be a serious setback for the legalization movement.

For a long time politicians didn’t want to talk about cannabis, said Ngaio Bealum, comedian, writer and marijuana legalization proponent.

“But money talks very loud,” said Bealum, who attended the conference.

He added that it’s important for California to lead the way in the marijuana business, because otherwise it would lose the money the industry would have generated from taxes, jobs in ancillary enterprises, even from business conferences.

“There’s so much money. The challenge will be to make sure everyone gets a chunk, because the pie is big enough,” Bealum said.

AUMA emphasizes small business ownership rather than large private monopolies and would help to prevent formerly incarcerated people from being barred from the industry, said Oliver Zerrudo, who recently graduated from UC Berkeley and is the California campus coordinator with Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Newsom noted in his speech that his wife has not thrown her support to the legalization movement because she doesn’t approve of the message it sends to their children.

Roger Morgan, an anti-cannabis activist, said Newsom’s messages are conflicting: Newsom warns his children against marijuana while on the other hand leading the effort to legalize it. He added that legislators are irresponsible for advocating for legalization while being knowledgeable of its potential harms.

Many of the businesses represented at the conference sell ancillary products such as insurance or security for cannabis-specific products, rather than actual cannabis, said Elizabeth Kost, who was manning Purple Line Media’s exhibit at the conference. Purple Line Media, as a cannabis product branding company, is one of those companies.

As marijuana becomes a more commercialized industry, Kost said such services will become more popular.

Currently, the city of Berkeley has permitted four medical marijuana dispensaries. The Berkeley Planning Commission met May 18 to discuss a change in legislation that would increase the number from four to six.

Suhauna Hussain is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @suhaunah.