Drug Policy Forum of California Dedicated to news of interest to the California drug reform community

Please send feedback on this guide here.

California Election Guide - 2014

Pro-reform candidates are in green; Anti-reform in red; Neutral in black.


Gov. Jerry Brown has posted a mixed record as Governor. To the disappointment of many fans, he recently dismissed calls for marijuana legalization with derogatory comments about "unproductive potheads." On the positive side, he signed legislation to expand access to clean syringes by drug users and a 911 Good Samaritan Act to protect callers from prosecution for illegal drug possession. He also vetoed a bill banning dispensaries within 600 feet of residential zones. More ambiguously, Brown vetoed a bill to legalize industrial hemp, but then approved a revised version that was conditioned on federal approval (which may soon be forthcoming thanks to the new federal law allowing hemp for research purposes). On the negative side, Brown has resisted court orders to reduce prison crowding, shocking prison reform advocates by vetoing Mark Leno's bill SB649 to downgrade penalties for possession of narcotics from a mandatory felony to a wobbler.

Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (San Bernardino County) was once thought to be his party's leading challenger to Brown, even though his strong Tea Party views and weakness for wacky statements put him out of the mainstream of California politics. Still, Donnelly has a libertarian streak, deriding the war on drugs as "a colossal failure" and sponsoring a bill to eliminate mandatory jail terms for being under the influence of controlled substances (AB2515). Unlike Gov. Brown, he also supported Mark Leno's narcotics possession decrim bill (SB 649).

Banking mogul Neel Kashkari, touted by the press as a socially liberal Republican alternative to Donnelly, has echoed Brown's sentiments on legalization, saying that when he "said we don't need a state full of pot-heads, he was right." Kashkari beat out Donnelly for second place and will face Brown in the November election.

Lieutenant Governor

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has distinguished himself by becoming the first state official to openly declare his support for marijuana legalization. Newsom made similar waves as mayor of San Francisco by pushing the envelope for gay marriage, successfully turning the national tide on the issue through the courts. Hopefully, his advocacy on behalf of legalization will enjoy similar success. The state Democratic Party has endorsed it in its platform.

Newsom's Republican opponent, Ron Nehring, has lined up with ex-Congressman Patrick Kennedy's anti-marijuana group SAM ("Smart Approaches to Marijuana") in denouncing legalization and questioning marijuana's value as medicine.

State Controller

This underlooked state office has an outstanding candidate in Betty Yee, who has championed the legal sale of marijuana on the Board of Equalization. Yee criticized the federal raids on California's dispensaries when other SF officials were silent and has been supportive of full adult use legalization. Jun 7 update: In a race that has not yet been called, Yee was running just 0.2% out of second place, in a virtual three-way tie with Democratic Speaker John Perez and Republican David Evans. Running first was the Republican mayor of Fresno, Ashley Swearengin, who cheerled the city's sweeping ban on marijuana cultivation.

Attorney General

The race for this crucial office was closely contested last election, when S.F. D.A. Kamala Harris barely edged out L.A. D.A. Steve Cooley - much to the relief of medical cannabis advocates, who found Harris sympathetic and Cooley hostile in dealing with their cities' dispensaries. Since moving to Sacramento, Harris has been notably silent on cannabis issues, doing nothing to challenge federal scheduling or the DOJ crackdown on California's dispensaries. At one point Harris' office quietly proposed a badly conceived update to the Attorney General's guidelines on cannabis collectives, which was thankfully dropped.

POST-PRIMARY UPDATE: Harris' Republican challenger this November, Ron Gold, advocates adoption of a Colorado-style marijuana legalization law, arguing that it will reduce the cost of law enforcement for vicimless crimes, reduce the incentives for drug cartels, and raise much needed tax reevnues."

Congressional Races

Marijuana and drug reform have not figured prominently in this year's races for state legislature or Congress. Among the handful of competitive legislative contests in California, few are likely to be decided over differences in drug policy. See the voting record of California's Congressional Delegation.

California's Congressional delegation has tended to vote well, in line with growing voter sentiment for reform. Support has been most solid amongst Democrats, especially in the Bay Area, where Rep. Barbara Lee (Oakland) and Sam Farr (Monterey) have been leading sponsors of reform bills. On the Republican side, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Huntington Beach) has emerged as his party's leading advocate for marijuana reform in Congress. In a landmark victory for medical marijuana, Rohrabacher teamed up with Sam Farr to sponsor a budget amendment blocking funds for the Department of Justice to interefere with state medical marijuana laws, which won by the surprising margin of 219-189.

This session also witnessed the historic passage of a bill legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes, which passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Obama.

Other, stronger reform bills were introduced but failed to advance due to continued resistance under the conservative Republican leadership of Speaker John Boehner. The prospect for decisive reform would be greatly improved were the Democrats to win a majority, in which case the speakership would return to San Francisco's Nancy Pelosi, who has declared medical marijuana to be a "really important" priority. However, chances of a Democratic majority are remote in this off-year election.


7th Congressional District - Rancho Cordova/Roseville - Incumbent Democratic freshman Ami Bera has posted a commendable voting record. This November, Bera will face Republican ex-Congressman Doug Ose, a vocal drug warrior who has attacked medical marijuana as a "sham."

10th District - Modesto/Manteca - Incumbent Republican Jeff Denham has an atrocious voting record; his November opponent will be Michael Eggman, who is endorsed by the Marijuana Policy Project.

31st District - San Bernardino - In the race to replace retiring Rep. Gary Miller, anti-drug activist Steve Chabot is running as an out-and-out drug warrior. Chabot will face Democrat Pete Aguilar, who is endorsed by local reform advocates, in the November election.

33rd District - LA - In the race to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat Kristie Holmes advocated legalization of marijuana as a social justice issue, while independent Marianne Williamson spoke out against mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders. The top two finishers were Republican Elan Carr and Democratic Assemblyman Ted Lieu, who will face off in November.

California Legislature

Although many incumbents will not be running for re-election on account of turn limits, the balance of power in Sacramento is not expected to swing dramatically this election. See the voting records of current state legislators. While Democrats have held close to a veto-proof 2/3 majority, this has not greatly affected legislation, as many new Democrats come from moderate swing districts where public opinion on drug issues is divided. Due to term limits, the Assembly will lose a leading champion of marijuana reform in Tom Ammiano (D-SF), who sponsored a pathbreaking adult use legalization bill in 2009 and as chair of of the Public Safety Committee has ably blocked bad legislation. In the State Senate, no great changes appear likely, as veteran reform champions Sen. Mark Leno (D-SF) and Public Safety Committee chair Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) both have two years left in office.

As a rule, Democratic legislators are far more likely to support drug and criminal justice reform than Republicans; the state Democratic party has even gone so far as to endorse marijuana legalization in its platform. Nonetheless, Republican opposition has been softening, as seen in the bi-partisan support for Mark Leno's hemp bill, while a number of Assembly Democrats have been notably hostile, including Al Muratsuchi (Torrance), Steve Fox (Palmdale), V Manuel Perez (Indio), Mike Gatto (Burbank), Henry Perea (Fresno) and Rudy Salas (Bakersfield).

Legislative and Local Races


FREMONT/SAN JOSE SENATE DISTRICT 10 - Outgoing Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D), who has posted an excellent voting record in Sacramento, is running for State Senate. (Wieckowski placed first in the primary and will face Republican Peter Kuo in November.)

FREMONT ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 25 -San Jose City Councilman Kansen Chu has likened cannabis businesses to prostitution and pushed to ban them from the city. Chu placed first in the primary with 30.4% of the vote and will face Republican Bob Brunton in November.

LAKE COUNTY - Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Referendum Measure N. For the second time, marijuana advocates have filed a referendum against a contentious county ordinance that sharply restricts cultivation. The first time, the supervisors voted to repeal the ordinance themselves rather than hold a vote; this time, the measure will be going to the ballot. If the referendum succeeds this June, both sides may return with competing cultivation proposals in the next election. "No" on N is a vote in favor of the referendum to repeal. Election outcome: Measure N was narrowly approved 52.6%-47.4%, putting the cultivation restrictions into effect in July.

L.A./HOLLYWOOD/CULVER CITY SENATE DISTRICT 26: Democrat Sandra Fluke stands out as the only candidate to advocate legalizing marijuana for adult use. Fluke ran second to Democrat Ben Allen in the primary, and the two will face off in November.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF - LAPD Detective Lou Vince, one of seven candidates running to replace Lou Baca, promised to limit enforcement of cannabis offenses and spend fewer resources on minor drug offenses. ( Vince failed to advance in the primary, which was won by Jim McDonnell and Paul Tanaka.)

SACRAMENTO/ROSEVILLE A.D. 06 - Incumbent Republican Beth Gaines, a social conservative with a terrible voting record, is facing opposition from Democrat Brian Caples, who supports medical marijuana. The two will face off in this November's election.

SACRAMENTO A.D. 07 - Democratic City Councilman Steve Cohn, who has been favorable to medical marijuana, is running for the seat being vacated by Roger Dickinson (D). Cohn ran second to Democrat Kevin McCarty in the primary, and the two will face off in November's election.

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF - Candidate Paul Schrader has stated that he would like to open a dialogue with local officials about allowing cannabis dispensaries. Incumbent John McMahon scored a dominating 63% of the vote in the primary, while Schrader ran second with 22%.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY Senate Dist. 38 - Patient advocates endorse Democrat Frank Tsimboukakis over incumbent Republican Joel Anderson, who has had a terrible voting record on medical marijuana.

SAN DIEGO CO. Supervisor District 5 - Patient advocates are supporting Oceanside mayor Jim Wood over incumbent Bill Horn, who has been a leading opponent of medical access to marijuana in the county. (Jun 7th update: with 71,000 votes yet to be counted, Horn held a narrow 1,500 vote lead over Wood).

SAN DIEGO District Attorney - Prop. 215 supporters were hoping to replace incumbent DA Bonnie Dumanis, renowned for her vindictive prosecution of medical marijuana cases, with Bob Brewer, who has reached out for support from patient advocates. In the election, Dumanis coasted to an easy first-place victory with 55% of the vote.


SAN FRANCISCO A.D. 17 - Outgoing Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has endorsed Supervisor David Campos, a former public defender and vigorous advocate for the city's marijuana dispensaries; Campos will face fellow Democratic Supervisor David Chiu, who has likewise been supportive, if not as outspoken, in the November election.

SHASTA COUNTY Supervisor Dist 5 (Anderson - Cottonwood - Shingletown): In a county sharply divided over cannabis cultivation, former Anderson Mayor and NORML member Rodney Jones touted the medicinal and industrial benefits of hemp. ( Jones came in third in the race, which was handily won by Les Baugh.)

SISKIYOU Co. - DUNSMUIR City Council - Council member Leslie Wilde, a medical cannabis advocate and provider, was recalled in the June election.

SONOMA COUNTY District Attorney candidate Victoria Shanahan openly supported decriminalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana and criticized incumbent Jill Ravitch for prosecuting too many marijuana cases. However, Ravitch coasted to an easy victory by 64%-35%.

BUTTE COUNTY Sup. Dist. 2 - Medical cannabis advocate and political neophyte Andrew Merkel scored a surprisingly strong 32% of the vote against incumbent Larry Wahl in the June election, where Merkel made cannabis the major issue.

YUBA COUNTY Sup. Dist. 5: - Candidate Kathie Thelen reached out for support from the cannabis community, but finished in last place. Randy Fletcher led with 45% of the vote.