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We’ve been saying for the final year that as California’s legal marijuana system continues to roll out, the state’s enforcement against illegal operators will continue to ramp up. In the course of his state of the state address on February 12, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the National Guard will be utilized to eradicate unlicensed cannabis farms. On February 11th, Gov. Newsom signed Basic Order 2019-01 that will redeploy 360 National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border to other state assignments by March 31st.

According to Newsom, some of these troops will be “redeploying up north to go following illegal cannabis farms, lots of of which are run by cartels, are devastating our pristine forests and are increasingly becoming fire hazards themselves.” The governor’s order authorizes the expansion of the California National Guard’s statewide Counterdrug Job force by at least 150 personnel and authorizes 100 personnel to conduct counter narcotics search and seizure operations targeting transnational criminal organizations about ports of entry. The order also notes that “since 2018, National Guard service members have participated in the seizure of 71,488 pounds of illegal cannabis.”

What remains unclear, nonetheless, is how the National Guard troops will proceed with implementing enforcement against illegal operations. California has had a lengthy history of battling illegal marijuana grows and of dealing with the accompanying environmental destruction. Back in 2015, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that offered for steep civil penalties against marijuana grows that “damage the atmosphere by dumping wastewater and chemical compounds, removing trees and killing wild animals.” The measure enhanced the California Division of Fish and Wildlife’s energy more than illegal marijuana develop operations on public lands, but the Department’s sources have nonetheless proved insufficient to eradicate these operations entirely. In the year prior to the signing of this measure, state agents “found extra than 135 dams or diversions in rivers and streams that resulted in the theft of about five million gallons of water for marijuana grows.” This law offered that fines of up to $40,000 might be assessed for illegally dumping specific sorts of hazardous components into rivers and streams, and fines of up to $10,000 might be assessed for removing trees or trapping and killing wildlife. But sadly, the possible monetary gains of continuing to operate illegally normally outweigh the possible penalties.

And whilst the black industry in California has no doubt been fueled by prohibition, even in the wake of legalization and regulation, the higher barriers to entry for lots of tiny corporations hoping to enter the legal industry will most likely serve to maintain that black industry alive for lots of years to come. We anticipate that National Guard troops will be utilized to weed out unlicensed operators that are engaged in industrial cannabis activity in violation of MAUCRSA, most likely prioritizing these trespass operations that are on public lands and/or causing environmental destruction, as lots of of these kinds of operations have ties to organized crime.

Operators nonetheless attempting to acquire licensure from the state will need to play by the guidelines as well, as operating a industrial cannabis company without having a license is not legal. We’ve stated it lots of instances ahead of that in order for state legalization to succeed in the lengthy run, state and regional governments will need to take significant enforcement measures against black and “gray” cannabis markets in order to guarantee that there is an even playing field for licensed operators burdened by licensing and regulatory compliance expenses as nicely as heavy taxation. We see this move by Governor Newsom as a step in the correct path.