By Ben Adlin

Think legalization in California is a done deal? Think again, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom warned industry representatives this week. An adult-use measure is headed for November’s ballot, but recent internal polling has Newsom worried about its chances. Failure at the ballot box, he warned, could carry dire consequences.

“If it is defeated,” he said, “it will set back this movement in California … and nationally for years and years.” Newsom spoke to an audience of industry representatives on Tuesday at an Oakland event sponsored by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA).

The lieutenant governor said he’s frustrated that other state officials haven’t come out in support of the measure, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. While the initiative recently won the high-profile endorsement of the California Democratic Party, few sitting politicians have expressed support. “I don’t want to be that guy,” Newsom said. “I don’t want to be here on a panel of ex-politicians talking about what I woulda, shoulda done when I was in office.”

The war on drugs has been a failure in the USA. It’s been a war on poor people + it’s been a war on people of color.

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 21, 2016

The lieutenant governor has a personal stake in legalization. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act was drafted largely as the result of recommendations from a group he created, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy.

While he’s been campaigning statewide, Newsom said he’s honed his arguments at home. He told the audience that his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, is “scared as hell” about the message that legalizing cannabis would send to the couple’s children. He said he’s reminded her that the measure will bar sales to anyone under 21, and there are good reasons to believe teen use will actually decrease.

Lt. Gov. Newsom says with Colorado experience on legal cannabis “you are seeing that the sky is not falling in.”

— Patrick McGreevy (@mcgreevy99) June 21, 2016

The legalization measure could run into other obstacles, Newsom said, such as a deep-pocketed donor stepping up to fight the measure. Much of AUMA’s funding has come from Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and a friend of Newsom. “But he’s got a budget, too, and he’s not going to fund the whole thing,” the lieutenant governor said.

California is one of nine states with cannabis measures going before voters this November. If voters in all those states support them, National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith said at the event, one in four Americans will reside in states with legal adult-use cannabis. Three in four will live in states where medical use is legal.

If the measures, fail, however, Smith said told the audience the fallout could be disastrous:

“If we don’t win California and at least half of the other states in play right now, the public narrative around our industry will dramatically change for the worse and for quite some time, setting us back a decade or more,” Smith said

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