Will California’s November ballot be cannabis-friendly?

Hosted by

“No one’s winning in California on rolling back [cannabis] legalization,” says Leafly Senior Editor David Downs, who notes the marijuana industry is watching which candidates are vying to become a bigger ally. Photo by Shutterstock.

California voters headed to the polls this week to decide the candidates that they want to see on their November ballots. The top issues for many voters in the state included homelessness, the economy, and housing affordability. But for some others, weed was heavy on their minds. 

Leafly Senior Editor David Downs breaks down which cannabis-friendly candidates won, and which policy proposals came out on top.

Which key races were the cannabis industry keeping watch on?

As someone who reports in San Francisco and [has talked] to cannabis licensees over the last few years, I know they've dealt with a lot of robberies and public safety issues. 

They expressed concerns around the San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who was routed in a recall. These licensees are exasperated, and they're hopeful now that Chesa is gone. 

That is a lens that the whole of America is looking through right now because other progressive district attorneys in Chesa’s mold did win in Contra Costa County and Alameda County. Their public safety approach vis-à-vis the safety of cannabis licensees is going to continue to be in focus.

Were cannabis policies important for the marijuna industry in the LA races?

Los Angeles obviously has similar dynamics to San Francisco. Rick Caruso ran on increasing public safety, and law and order. Los Angeles licensees continue to face a lot of problems with robberies.

Which cannabis-friendly candidates will be advancing to the November elections statewide?

Attorney General Bonta has always been a friend of legal cannabis, and he won 54% of the vote. He is going to carry the banner of weed but how the balance of enforcement and tolerance in the state remains to be seen.

Governor Newsom easily cruised to a primary victory. He’s got an open ear to the cannabis industry and is working on lowering taxes and increasing access to equity.

Senator Alex Padilla has always been a weed ally and will continue to be one on Capitol Hill, which is a big deal because … federal [cannabis] law is stuck in the Senate.

The wisdom to me in California is that no one’s winning in California on rolling back [cannabis] legalization. It’s more of how big of an ally they are for advancing access and equity.

What does Attorney General Bonta’s overwhelming support mean for the future of cannabis-related prosecutions in California?

He's going to be taking a progressive approach to enforcement of the illicit market. He understands that we're in a time where people don't want to see other individuals go to jail for marijuana, but at the same time, we have unfettered cultivation in the desert. Balancing carrots versus sticks in regards to mainstreaming in the cannabis market is going to be his task.

Is it surprising that cannabis advocates threw their support behind Republican Tom Lackey in the State Assembly District 34 race? 

It would be except for that the GOP in California is kind of a remnant of itself. In assembly District 34, Tom Lackey was going up against Thurston Smith, who had some legislation that would stiffen penalties for illegal growers. That's where the rubber hits the road in terms of enforcement and flagrant violations of proposition 64 in the desert.

What do the primary election results say about the November ballot?

California has a post-GOP America preview where we have fights between centrist Democrats and progressive Democrats. That’s really the table stakes in the general in the fall.




Matt Guilhem


Tara Atrian