An ardent advocate for cutting taxes and easing regulations for marijuana businesses is in the running to become California’s next governor, should voters opt to recall Gavin Newsom in September.

Jackie McGowan, a cannabis consultant and lobbyist, launched her campaign with a scathing attack on the state of California’s legal marijuana market under Gov. Newsom’s leadership, arguing the industry sorely needs deregulation measures to benefit growers as well as consumers. McGowan claims that since the state voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, the adult-use industry has been stymied by high marijuana taxes, local jurisdictions opting out of allowing dispensaries and competition from the still-thriving illicit market.

“I’m highlighting cannabis because we (in the industry) have been pushed aside for so long,” said McGowan, a registered Democrat. “This isn’t a game; this is literally life or death right now. The cannabis industry is in crisis, and it cannot be ignored any longer.”

Making reform of California’s cannabis industry a cornerstone of her campaign, McGowan pledged to drop the cultivation tax for growers and cut the excise tax for distributors and retailers.

“When you think of it in terms of the supply chain, first it affects nurseries, where the operator has to pay local and state taxes,” she said. “The cultivator produces the product and sells it to a wholesaler or retailer, and they have to pay the excise tax. It goes to the manufacturer, and that’s another tax. By the time it gets to the consumer, it’s been taxed 10 or 15 times depending on what jurisdiction you’re in.”

McGowan said she intends to lean on cities and towns to open up their jurisdictions to marijuana businesses. She goes so far as to propose ordering jurisdictions where a majority of voters approved Proposition 64 to hold a further ballot measure on the issue within one year or give the green light to at least one retail dispensary for every four liquor stores operating in the area.

McGowan also wants to use her lobbying background to pressure the federal government into permitting inter-state cannabis exports and to push for all forms of the cannabis plant, whether it contains THC or not, to be regulated in the same way under the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized non-psychoactive hemp. In acknowledging the difficulties in pursuing such an agenda through the state legislature, McGowan said she would consider using her position as governor, if elected, to enact such reforms though executive orders.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a recall after a petition circulated by Republican organizers dissatisfied with his handling of the state’s COVID-19 lockdown measures easily reached the threshold of 1.5 million signatures. In September, California voters will be asked whether Newsom should be recalled and, if so, who should replace him. If a majority of voters decide he should be recalled then the front-runner of the second question, out of a crowded field of four dozen candidates, will become California’s new governor.

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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