California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses Democrats, Apr. 13, at the state
 party convention in Sacramento. PHOTO/Shane Bond

CADEM CONVENTION | California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom challenged the political establishments on both sides of the aisle Saturday afternoon calling for decriminalizing marijuana and describing the decades-long war on drugs as “an abject failure.”

“I think it’s time for politicians of all stripes to come out of the closet,” he said. “I think it’s time to decriminalize—to tax—and regulate marijuana. It’s time to face the facts that our drug laws have done more harm than good. The war on drugs is an abject failure.”

Newsom’s remarks at this weekend’s Democratic state convention drew some of the most raucous responses from delegates with many quickly rising their feet and raising their arms in approval.

Earlier in his speech, Newsom even made a lighthearted reference to his support for medical marijuana, when he jokingly recounted the past six days of the so-called “Newsom administration” (Newsom is serving as acting governor while Gov. Jerry Brown is on a trade mission in China), he said the “Gavin Newsom Acting Governor Library is currently being constructed in the back of a medical marijuana dispensary.” As the group cheered, he added. “I’m looking forward to it as well.”

Newsom also touched on two other subjects typically uncomfortable for many politicians to broach. He called for abolishing the death penalty in California and faulted it for targeting blacks in disproportionate numbers. “It’s not a deterrent. It’s not full-proof. It is racially biased,” Newsom said. “It costs more and there is no way to reverse a mistake when you put an innocent person wrongly-accused to die.”

Overall high unemployment and a shrinking middle class should be placed atop the progressive agenda, said Newsom. Three of the five largest metropolitan areas in the country—Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield—possess jobless figures “at Depression-era levels,” said Newson, who contrasted it with low unemployment rates in Marin County hovering just over five percent. “It s like we’re living in two distinct worlds within our own state.”