As Californians nervously anticipate the upcoming recall election of Governor Gavin Newson (D), industry leaders in cannabis are divided on which candidate would be the smartest choice. The main concern voiced amongst many prominent figures in cannabis is that the disruption caused by recalling Newson could be potentially catastrophic, if not just disparaging, for the industry’s progress thus far and future goals. But while a large number of CA cannabis folks want to keep Newson in office to avoid those disruptions, others feel that Republican talk show host Larry Elder would genuinely be a benefit for the industry overall.
So why are some cannabis industry leaders and activists reluctant to recall the incumbent even though they also feel that he’s been dragging his feet on progress in cannabis? Well, according to Jerred Kiloh, the president of the Los Angeles-based United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA) in MJBiz, “If a Republican governor came in, or someone who doesn’t have the same stance on cannabis [as Newsom], they could unwind so many things we’ve all been working on.” UCBA has spent a lot of their efforts on lobbying for various cannabis regulatory reforms in the Golden State and Kiloh fears that a gubernatorial change at this moment could set the industry back years, saying “Yeah, that’s pretty scary.”
Newsom has been a proponent for legal recreational cannabis for years, including in 2016 as the lieutenant governor when he gave his unwavering support to Proposition 64. But since he became governor in 2019, many feel that he’s been somewhat lackluster in living up to his promises regarding the burgeoning cannabis industry. Jackie McGowan, a marijuana consultant, has definitely been feeling that way – so much so that she actually threw her hat in the ring as a gubernatorial candidate. Since then, she’s become known as the “cannabis candidate,” but despite her deeply entrenched position in cannabis that would hopefully uplift the industry if she were to be elected, it seems that cannabis business leaders are somewhat reluctant to throw their support behind McGowan.
“The cannabis industry is also very nervous about coming out publicly to support me,” she said, “because they fear that if I’m not elected, then either Newsom stays in office or a Trump Republican is elected, that there’s going to be some sort of retaliation.” As it stands right now, 57% of voters are opposed to recalling Newsom, and candidate McGowan has a mere 5% of voter support, placing her third on the list of the 46 candidates hoping to replace the current governor, while candidate Elder has 27%, making him first on the list. Support for Elder is a complex subject, especially concerning his staunch Republican views as they may pertain to cannabis, which he actually has not commented on thus far.
“Larry Elder is a flip-flopper … so, good luck getting anything done. Good luck getting tax reform. Good luck getting more retail locations,” McGowan said. Avis Bulbulyan, an LA-based consultant, feels the exact opposite about Elder, however, saying that his election would be “super positive” for the cannabis industry by “going for lower taxes, for open opportunity.” She also said that she believes Elder, an African American, would play a pivotal role in accelerating “awareness and conversations surrounding social equity programs,” something that is a major and important factor for many states’ cannabis plans right now.
With the election only six days away, we don’t have to wait much longer to see what will happen. But it seems that as of right now, Newsom has enough general support to retain his position as governor.