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Garcetti: Recreational pot use is question for voters

In his first interview with a national news outlet, Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti said he wouldn't have any problems if California voters decided to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

During a short interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos on Sunday, Garcetti was asked if he thought pot use should be legalized for  casual use. His response was interesting.

Marijuana was important for medicinal use, he said. "But if in the future, California's voters want it for casual use, for me, it's not a problem."

He went on to suggest that enforcement of marijuana laws was diverting law enforcement from more important tasks.

"I want to use the police department's resources for more serious crimes, but they are usually tied up in these crimes that aren't as important," Garcetti said. "Still, it would need to be decided by a state-wide vote."

The comments came at the end of a six-minute interview that focused mostly on the role the Spanish language played in Los Angeles politics.  

The television anchor asked if it was possible to win the mayoral race without being able to speak Spanish, adding that the city will have had Spanish-speaking mayors for more than a decade with his election.

“The Latino vote was very important to my victory, but it’s not necessary,” Garcetti said in Spanish. “If you can speak Spanish, then you can have a stronger connection with the residents of Los Angeles.”

Los Angeles is the most diverse city in the world, Garcetti continued, and “it’s important to have a global perspective.”

Garcetti also said that his administration would focus heavily on education and the economy.

“Everything that I want to do [as mayor] will be possible when we have a strong and prosperous economy,” Garcetti said in Spanish. “Los Angeles has all the ingredients of success ... but we need to start with our education system” and businesses.

Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A., said Garcetti was “definitely sending a message” by granting his first post-election interview to a Spanish-language news medium.

The marijuana comment was "a generally safe response," he said. Stating his support for medical pot use and saying that he wanted police to focus on serious criminal matters were likely to find broad approval "in a liberal city that bleeds political blue."

Regalado said Garcetti's comments about language and L.A.'s diversity of cultures were "smart" as well.

“He and future winning citywide candidates will need a coalition that includes many of those cultures, ethnicities and races,” Regalado said in an email. “He showed some moxie here -- political and cultural.”

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Twitter: @dalinac

dalina.castellanos@latimes.com

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