By Steve Elliott
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is preparing for a 2016 gubernatorial campaign, and if an expected ballot measure to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana meets his criteria, he will endorse it and effectively become the public face of the campaign, betting his political future on the popularity of cannabis in the Golden State.
Newsom, a Democrat, is the highest-ranking official in California to support recreational legalization, reports Seema Mehta at The Los Angeles Times.
Although legalization will almost certainly be popular with liberal and young voters, some political analysts believe his support for legalization could present a challenge.
"He could motivate large numbers of young people who aren't regular voters to turn out for him," said director Dan Schnur, of the University of Southern California's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. "But taking a leadership role on this could make older swing voters nervous, even if they agree with him on the issue. It's a potentially risky play."
Voters in California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 but in 2010 voted against recreational use, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. Since then, polling has shown that public support for legalizing pot has grown, reaching 53 percent in a March survey by the Public Policy Institute of California — a record high in that organization's surveys.