Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission says nothing new

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

Did you get a chance to read Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy recommendations for legal recreational cannabis use in California? What did you think?

—Hope Fullwishes

Yeah, I read it. Meh. This thing took two years to produce? Really? My problem with this report is that it isn’t telling us anything new.

You can read it for yourself at
. But if you already follow cannabis-law reform in California, you won’t learn much. Yes, of course we need to keep cannabis out of the hands and lungs of children. Yes, of course we would like to make sure that giant corporations and oligopolies don’t take over the cannabis market. Yes, of course we would like to get rid of as much of the black market as we can and generate tax revenues for the state. These people traveled up and down the state for 24 months and spent how many dollars to say that kids shouldn’t smoke weed and giant businesses are bad? They could have just called me on the phone and I could have saved them thousands of dollars.

I generally like Gavin Newsom. He was way ahead of everyone on the whole gay marriage thing and he has been one of the few politicians in California to acknowledge that recreational cannabis legalization is almost inevitable and maybe the state should be ready to deal with legalization when it happens. But the commission’s recommendations are poppycock. There is no reason for this to be a complicated, arduous affair. It took Colorado a year or so to come up with regulations. Oregon legalized weed in 2014, and the regulations for recreational sales will be in place in 2016. I hate to be all cynical, but it seems like he is just biding time and maybe pumping marijuana advocates and organizers for a little extra campaign cash (Newsom is running for governor in 2018). This report contained nothing about how to deal with cities and counties that don’t want to allow marijuana-based businesses, what the tax structure could look like or even a suggestion on plant limits or garden sizes. There is so much this commission could have done and it essentially did nothing. It actually made me a little sad.

Listen, there may be approximately umpteen-million initiatives about cannabis on the ballot in California come 2016, including one that would make recreational cannabis use illegal and put the state in charge of medical cannabis production. We really need to figure out which initiative we like and which one has the best chance—I like the California Craft Cannabis Initiative:—and work to make sure a good initiative makes it to the ballot. We don’t need to spend more time learning stuff we know already. If Newsom would like to come sit on my porch and talk about cannabis-law reform, we could probably come up with some good recommendations in two hours instead of two years.