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Saturday, February 23, 2019

CANNABIS AROUND THE WORLD: U.S.- CA’s use of National Guard to target illegal marijuana grows fuels questions, concerns over potential MJ industry fallout

CA’s use of National Guard to target illegal marijuana grows fuels questions, concerns over potential MJ industry fallout

Legal marijuana companies are cautiously welcoming California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that 150 National Guard troops will deploy to Northern California to “go after illegal cannabis farms,” but the news also is kindling fears in some industry circles of a renewed, government-led drug war.
Many legal marijuana companies have long argued that illicit operators pose a major threat to their bottom line – and a widespread law enforcement conundrum for the state at large.
However, some of California’s legal cannabis companies remain unclear about how the National Guard effort will proceed, and the state has yet to offer clear-cut answers.
Parallels drawn to the decades-old Campaign Against Marijuana Planting program (CAMP) have some worried about a “drug war 2.0” because in years past, CAMP arguably victimized many of the same MJ farmers who are now legal and licensed.
Cannabis companies also are looking for clarity from the state about how the deployment will be managed to ensure it doesn’t unintentionally interfere with legal marijuana businesses.
It’s also unclear whether the deployment may lead to raids on some farms that may be out of compliance with state industry rules but are still transitioning and trying to become part of the legal market.
Memories of CAMP, in particular, are triggering alarms.
  • “CAMP … sends shivers up my spine just hearing it,” said John Brower, a cannabis industry consultant in Trinity County, which comprises the Emerald Triangle along with Humboldt and Mendocino counties.
    National Guard troops are already involved in at least two anti-narcotics efforts: CAMP, as well as the National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force (CDTF).
    CAMP is a joint program involving 10 state and federal agencies, including the California National Guard. It’s separate from the CDTF.
    While the order that Newsom signed last week bolstered Guard personnel for the CDTF, Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal called the move a “carryover of the ‘CAMP’ program.”
    The state attorney general’s office announced 52 arrests last October made via CAMP in connection with illegal marijuana grows across California.
    Honsal’s comments tying the new National Guard effort to CAMP raised eyebrows in the legal Northern California MJ farming community.
  • Scars left by CAMP
  • National Guard troops are already involved in at least two anti-narcotics efforts: CAMP, as well as the National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force (CDTF).
    CAMP is a joint program involving 10 state and federal agencies, including the California National Guard. It’s separate from the CDTF.
    While the order that Newsom signed last week bolstered Guard personnel for the CDTF, Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal called the move a “carryover of the ‘CAMP’ program.”
    The state attorney general’s office announced 52 arrests last October made via CAMP in connection with illegal marijuana grows across California.
    Honsal’s comments tying the new National Guard effort to CAMP raised eyebrows in the legal Northern California MJ farming community.
    Growers there support enforcement against violent gangs and “trespass grows” on public lands – but the reference carries mental scars from years of “abusive” raids by CAMP agents.
    “Abusive” is a word multiple sources used to describe CAMP’s heyday from 1983 to the early 2000s.
    “The abuses of the CAMP program have left some long-lasting wounds in our community, and those wounds aren’t all healed,” Brower said.
    The mission is unclear
    Asked to clarify the new CDTF mission’s scope, Newsom’s press office referred Marijuana Business Daily to the initial news release, dated Feb. 11.
    Under Newsom’s order, troops assigned to the CDTF would focus on combating “transnational crime organizations engaged in the illegal trafficking of firearms and narcotics.”
    The order also noted that National Guard members assisted in the seizure of over 71,000 pounds of “illegal cannabis” in 2018.
    The governor’s office didn’t immediately answer follow-up questions – such as whether the CDTF would possibly raid unlicensed grows on private lands or only illegal “trespass grows” on public lands.

    The 150 new troops assigned to the new mission represent a roughly 75% increase in personnel for the CDTF, which currently has “200-plus” soldiers and airmen, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma, the California National Guard’s chief of media relations.
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