Expert Panel Releases Initial Marijuana Policy Report, Announces Public Phase

Commission Chaired by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom to inform Voters and Policymakers on Range of Issus related to Possible Marijuana Legalization in California

(San Francisco) – An initial progress report released today by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, identifies three key issues related to the possibility of legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults to which the commission has devoted significant research and analysis during the past 18 months.

The report’s release also signals the beginning of the public phase of the commission’s work, which will include a series of public forums across the state, in addition to the launch of the commission’s website at www.safeandsmartpolicy.org . The report is published as a new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows public support for marijuana legalization is at its highest point since it began polling the question in May 2010, with 55 percent of likely voters favoring legalization.

“With marijuana legalization increasingly likely in California, it is vital that policymakers are informed by the expert think tank we’ve assembled, to make sure any changes in law are thoughtfully constructed and implemented safely and effectively” said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who chairs the Blue Ribbon Commission. “The war on drugs has failed. Even though marijuana is illegal in California, it remains ubiquitous and easily accessible to kids. We incarcerate too many nonviolent people, spend too much money doing it, and ruin too many lives—especially among the poor and disadvantaged—all without enhancing public safety. As a parent and a policymaker, this demands a different approach.”

The three key areas identified by the Blue Ribbon Commission for further research, analysis, and recommendations are issues relating to protecting children and youth, ensuring public safety, and establishing tax and regulation schemes that will maximize revenue while eliminating the illicit market. The report advises that many of the issues it is exploring need to be considered with the goal of limiting access to marijuana among California children.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s annual survey for 2014 found that 34 percent of 10th graders had used marijuana, making the substance more prevalent among this age group than tobacco (23 percent). Nearly half (44%) of the surveyed 12th Graders had used marijuana.

“Marijuana legalization raises serious questions that demand thoughtful solutions,” said Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California and a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s steering committee. “The Blue Ribbon Commission invites the feedback of other experts, stakeholders and the public as Californians consider the issues involved in legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults beyond medical use.”

An ACLU report released in June 2013 showed extreme racial disparities in marijuana arrests in California and across the nation that disproportionately impacted communities of color, disparities that would be decreased by a sensible tax and regulate measure.

Composed of leading legal, academic, law enforcement and policy experts from across the state and nation, the Blue Ribbon Commission is engaged in a two-year research effort designed to help voters and policy makers evaluate proposals for a strict tax and regulation system for marijuana.

Joining Lt. Governor Newsom on the panel is a broad spectrum of policy, legal and academic experts, including, among others:

  • Keith Humphreys, a Stanford Health Policy Associate who was a senior policy analyst at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009-2010;
  • Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law expert and dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law;
  • Timmen Cermack and Dr. Peter Banys, both past presidents of the California Society of Addiction Medicine;
  • Seth Ammerman, a Stanford University professor and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics;
  • Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith;
  • Sam Kamin, a Denver University law professor who has been appointed to the Colorado governor’s task force for implementing that state’s marijuana legalization initiative;
  • Alison Holcomb, campaign manager of Washington state’s successful 2012 ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana;
  • Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology, Columbia University, Department of Psychology and Psychiatry;
  • Peter Banys, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCSF; Past‐President, California Society of Addiction Medicine; formerly served on a federal advisory board for methadone treatment;
  • Chris Magnus, Police Chief, Richmond Police Department, Richmond, California;
  • Craig Reinarman, Professor of Sociology and Legal Studies, Sociology Dept., University of California, Santa Cruz; former Consultant, World Health Organization Program on Substance Abuse;
  • Harlan G. Grossman, Judge (ret.), Contra Costa Superior Court; former Special Agent, FBI; former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force; and former Trial Attorney, Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, USDOJ;
  • Igor Grant, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine; Director of the UCSD HIV Neurobehavioral Research Program.