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After meeting Colorado governor, California Senate leader has concerns about legalizing recreational pot

Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at a marijuana dispensary in Denver in 2013. (Brennan Linsley / Associated Press)
Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at a marijuana dispensary in Denver in 2013. (Brennan Linsley / Associated Press)

A chance meeting with the governor of Colorado has left California Senate leader Kevin de León  (D-Los Angeles) with concerns about an initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in this state, he said Wednesday.

“I’m not there yet,” De León told reporters when asked his position on Proposition 64. “I don’t know if I am behind the times in comparison to other folks, but I still have my concerns.”

De León said that on a flight back from last month's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia he was seated next to Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and the two had a long discussion about the effect of a pot legalization measure approved in that state. The governor had opposed legalization, and said last year that his state's decision to approve it in 2012 was a "bad idea."

 Hickenlooper has since softened his position, saying the regulatory system "might work."

“We had a very comprehensive conversation," De León told reporters during a Capitol press briefing. "I still have my concerns."

He said he worries that the recreational pot being sold these days is much more potent, leading to a spike in emergency room visits in other states. He also is concerned about the sale of pot edibles in the forms of gummy bears and other candy that might attract minors.

“These are real-life consequences,” he said.

Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the Proposition 64 campaign, said it specifically prohibits making edibles “designed to be appealing to children or easily confused with commercially sold candy."

Addressing other bills on vices, De León said Wednesday that he is in no hurry to approve the legalization of Internet poker and fantasy sports sites in California. A poker bill is pending in the Assembly.

A bill allowing fantasy sports websites missed a key deadline for approval by a policy committee, according to Dan Reeves, the chief of staff for De León.

“The author pulled the bill from a hearing so technically it’s dead,” Reeves told reporters.

Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) could still revive the bill this year, Reeves noted. Trent Hager, a chief of staff for Gray, said in a statement that the Internet poker bill will be brought up on the Assembly floor Monday "and we will continue to work to move both consumer protection pieces forward."

Asked if he wants to put a regulatory system in place to allow fantasy sports games, De León said he was "not in a rush for anything.” He made the same comment on the Internet poker bill.

Meanwhile, De León said that if the Legislature is unable to come up with a deal to finance transportation needs by the end of the regular session on Aug. 31, the matter could be taken up after that date in a special session called by the governor.

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