Gavin Newsom Directs National Guard to Battle Illegal Pot Farms
Gov. Gavin Newsom will deploy California’s National Guard to battle the scourge of illegal marijuana cultivation operations in the northern part of the state. The announcement came last week as the governor announced he would be pulling the Guard from California-Mexico border in act of defiance against President Donald Trump.
California’s illegal marijuana farms “are devastating our pristine forests, and are increasingly becoming fire hazards themselves,” the governor said, noting that many of them are run by well-connected and dangerous drug cartels.
Newsom’s order directs some 150 Guard troops to redeploy and begin elimination raids on illegal farms in places like Humboldt County.
Cannabis industry groups are generally supportive of enforcement efforts on large-scale, illegal growers. But they remain skeptical about what the Guard’s operations may look like and whether mom and pop farms struggling to go legit may be disproportionately affected.
“In no way shape or form do we want to support any enforcement program that mirrors the failed War on Drugs that targeted and prosecuted black and brown members of our communities… nor do we want to enforce on operators that are trying to come into compliance and are working to have a place in the regulated market,” California Cannabis Industry Association Communication and Outreach Director Josh Drayton told Cannabis Now. “With that being said, we have to address the operators that have no intention of becoming regulated and choose to operate illegally.”
Terra Carver, executive director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance (HCGA), was much more optimistic about the governor’s plans.
“We applaud (Newsom) for allocating resources to eliminate very destructive and dangerous trespass grows,” Carver said in an email to Marijuana Business Daily. “These operations are typically on public lands, use extremely harmful pesticides and are run by organized crime.”
A recent report from the state’s Cannabis Advisory Committee underscores the dilemma posed by California’s enduring black market. One year after marijuana sales were legalized, an estimated 80% of the cannabis bought and sold in California is done so outside legal channels, resulting in unfair competition for licensed businesses, environmental degradation, disappointing revenues, and increased crime.
According to the Committee, “fragmented and uncoordinated” enforcement is to blame for the black market’s durability. State regulators can only do so much. Newsom hopes his troop redployment plan will be an effective new step.