The governor of California wants federal cannabis legalization partly so that farmers in the state can legally grow marijuana for the rest of the US.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) made the comments in a video shown at the Oakland International Film Festival before the screening of a new documentary charting the history of the cannabis reform movement in California.
“We know, as I’ve said, the fight is not over. We have so much more work to do—not just here in the state, but also at the federal level, to move forward with decriminalization to end federal prohibition,” he said.
Newsom also gave his thanks to cannabis activists that had helped the state attain the “important milestone” of marijuana legalization in 2016, before adding that reforms to California’s cannabis laws are still necessary to remedy various “imperfections.”
An end to federal cannabis prohibition would herald the beginning of interstate marijuana commerce and, as Newsom acknowledges, California is especially well-positioned to benefit from a nationwide cannabis industry given its ideal climate for outdoor marijuana cultivation. California also has decades of marijuana cultivation experience to draw upon, given medical cannabis was legalized in the state in 1996.
Evidently with this in mind, Newsom has already made moves in this regard by signing legislation into law to allow California to engage in marijuana commerce with other states that have legalized cannabis. This capacity would be triggered immediately by a change in federal law or guidance, or if California’s attorney general determines that interstate cannabis commerce would “not result in significant legal risk” to California.
Newsom also discussed federal cannabis legalization as a way of combating marijuana trafficking across state borders, arguing that the illicit market would lose its power if regulated cannabis products could flow between states that have legalized marijuana.
Tackling the still thriving illicit market in California has been a stiff challenge for Newsom, leading him to recently establish an illicit cannabis enforcement task force. The governor has also sought to reduce the incentives for engaging in illicit cannabis market activity by eliminating a cultivation tax on licensed growers and supporting a bill that would override local bans on cannabis retailers.
Newsom ended his video appearance by appealing for federal cannabis legalization to be accompanied by greater efforts to “repair damage that’s been done over the course of decades, generations, to people, to families and communities through this abject failure, this thing called the war on drugs.”
To this end, California state officials recently announced it had distributed nearly $30 million in grants to dozens of community organizations to fund programs and services that “help advance health, wellness and economic justice for populations and communities harmed by the War on Drugs.”