Governor Gavin Newsom doesn’t have to worry about losing his seat right now, but he will fight to run California again in just over a year. When that time comes, he may need to appease the cannabis industry.
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs talks about how Newsom has dealt with the burgeoning cannabis market and whether pot will play a role when it is likely to be in the 2022 election.
KCRW: Since Newsom took office in 2019, the profile of cannabis has risen in both California and nationally. Should the industry expressly praise him?
David Downs: “I don’t think Gavin Newsom gets enough credit for sticking his neck very early in marijuana policy reform over the years, starting with his tenure as San Francisco mayor.
Then he helped direct and share the Blue Ribbon Commission to investigate what Proposition 64 would ultimately look like.
And then he oversaw the rise of the legal cannabis industry here in California – the world’s largest market for adult use.
When the pandemic broke out in 2020, he led the way by designating cannabis as one of the “essential industries”, sparking a boom in cannabis sales and accelerating the growth of the industry.
We are still in the midst of overcoming the growing pains of many of the things he set in motion. So he’s the rat catcher of … marijuana policy reform nationally and internationally, despite the disagreements some of the industries have with him. “
What did some of Newsom’s critics in the industry say about him?
“Ed Rosenthal, a major Oakland breeder who was part of the historic effort to legalize and advance reform, was supportive of Gavin Newsom.
But then you could immediately see in the comments on Ed’s Instagram posts – the full range of fringe types of cannabis that have legitimate problems with California legalization.
There is an extreme left and an extreme right on cannabis, and they are circling around meeting critics about how things had turned out in California.
At the same time, the people who supported them, like Larry Elder, didn’t really have big solutions to the structural problems with California’s newly illegal market.
It has just exhausted the latent frustration of many players who continue to struggle to operate in this market. “
It seems like there are two camps: politicians who are happy with Newsom and suppliers who say there is a lot left to be desired.
“California politics is that lens that brings all of California’s problems into focus. And they actually come from contradicting impulses in the electorate.
Think of the dispute between local control, housing construction, and the homeless problem that is playing out in cannabis.
Think of the struggle between liberals and taxes, spending and wanting those freedoms versus actually enforcing the law and creating incentives for legal actors to act legally.
Gavin Newsom is at the forefront of many things that you can’t control in California. And the introduction of legalization and the problems of expanding local businesses are broader issues in dealing with growth and licensing in California. “
What does Newsom need to do to get the cannabis industry on its side for the 2022 elections?
“I think he can really help by looking at the tax rate or the regulations. They are in the process of merging three bureaucracies into one and it remains to be seen whether they can break down the barriers to entry to illegal cannabis.
Providing local incentives to regulate and open stores will ease the bottleneck in legal cannabis.
He also has to announce stock fixes that [are] about victims of the drug war trying to get into the industry and how that process works. It’s not really working smoothly so far.
On the flip side, he has to deal with demands for increased enforcement and compliance that were largely absent due to COVID. So if you are a good actor in legal cannabis, you will see bad actors revolving around you and enforcement non-existent.
But overall, Republicans must come up with solutions to these intractable problems in a way that will keep Governor Newsom out of the vote. We haven’t seen that this year.
I don’t know who the GOP has on their bench or what their think tanks are up to, but in the battle for hearts and minds and ideas, Gavin Newsome remains the one to beat. “
Could the GOP win over the cannabis world if the party takes a free market approach?
“They like lower taxes and say they like lower markets, but they impose a 100 percent prohibition tax on cannabis and throw hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in jail for decades.
It would be difficult for them to convince a large part of cannabis supporters that a conservative is the way to go. “