California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is hoping to pull National Guard troops away from the U.S.-Mexico border to help protect his state’s struggling marijuana industry.
Faced with competition from a robust black market, the legal cannabis industry in California has not experienced the growth that supporters had expected. Newsom — who enjoyed hundreds of thousands in campaign donations from the marijuana lobby — wants to aid the industry by redeploying at least 150 California National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border and instead use them to combat illegal grows in Northern California.
“There are legitimate concerns in Northern California particularly as it relates to illegal cannabis grows. They are getting worse, not better,” Newsom stated, according to the Los Angels Times. “I want to see more enforcement.”
California citizens voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2016, and the law officially changed in January 2018. Proponents initially anticipated a thriving cannabis industry within the country’s most populous state. California officials, for example, estimated there would be up to 6,000 licensed cannabis shops within the first few years and that the industry would bring up to $1 billion a year in revenue.
Instead, the state only issued 547 temporary and annual licenses by December 2018, and California is only expected to rake in $471 million in revenue this fiscal year. New Frontier Data, a firm that analyzes marijuana sales, estimated the black market accounts for as much as 80 percent of the marijuana sold in the state. California’s illegal pot market is estimated to be four times that of the legal market.
Beyond a thriving black market, experts blame California’s lackluster marijuana sales on complex and burdensome regulations by the state government.
Newsom’s plan to target drug cartels and illegal grows comes after he blasted the Trump administration’s security prioritization at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Democratic governor announced on Feb. 11 that he would be pulling most of the state’s 400 National Guard troops from the southern border, rebuking an agreement his predecessor made with President Donald Trump in 2018 to beef up border security.
“We are not interested in participating in this political theatre. I think it is political theatre,” Newsom said in Sacramento as he announced his decision. He went on to claim that border crossings are at record lows and argued that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens. “The whole thing is ludicrous,” he said of Trump’s border security efforts.
The Democratic governor — who is serving his first year in office — offered further criticism of the president’s border agenda in his State of the State address.
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