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BURLINGAME - Republican Ron Nehring, a candidate for for lieutenant governor, issued a forceful rebuke of marijuana legalization on Saturday, saying advocates of decriminalizing the drug are putting children in harm's way.

"Anyone who thinks that this is only going to be limited to adults needs to put the crack pipe down because that is simply not reality," Nehring said at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame.

Colorado and Washington thrust the issue onto the national stage when the states legalized marijuana.

At the convention, Nehring, the former state GOP chairman, stood beside a poster quoting Gov. Jerry Brown from a recent appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." In that interview, the Democratic governor questioned how California could be expected to prosper while people get stoned.

"I think Jerry Brown is exactly spot on," Nehring said. He called for a debate on pot with Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who favors legalizing the drug.

"If Gavin Newsom is not willing to debate me, then perhaps he would be willing to debate Gov. Brown," Nehring said. "And maybe they can have a debate on high-speed rail while they're at it."

Despite Nehring's concerns about the "social costs," of increased drug use, Californians appear to be turning a corner on marijuana. The Field Poll from December -- for the first time ever -- found clear majority support for legalization. Eight percent of voters supported allowing anyone to purchase cannabis and 47 percent said it should be available with the types of controls that govern alcohol sales.

PHOTO: Republican Ron Nehring speaks at the California Republican Party Convention in Burlingame. Christopher Cadelago/The Sacramento Bee



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