California produced at least 13.5 million pounds of marijuana last year — five times more than the 2.5 million pounds it consumed.
Where did all that extra pot go?
The answer, experts say, is that much of it ended up in other states — some where marijuana is still illegal.
As California prepares to allow cannabis sale for recreational use, that surplus has become a problem.
“If we want to avoid intervention from the federal government, we need to do everything we can to crack down on illegal activity and prevent cannabis from being exported out of state,” Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) said.
The wide gap between production and consumption came to light in a recent study commissioned by the state Department of Food and Agriculture.
Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law, and U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has said he favors stricter enforcement. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice had placed a lower priority on enforcing the law in states that allowed medical marijuana.
States interpreted a 2013 memo by then-Deputy Atty. Gen. James Cole that they could avoid federal intervention as long as they tried to stop serious marijuana crimes, such as sales to minors, gang sales and exports to other states.
The new California Bureau of Cannabis Control is scrambling to put regulations in place to begin issuing state licenses to grow, transport and sell marijuana starting Jan. 2. Those rules explicitly prohibit the export of marijuana to other states.
Lackey, a retired sergeant for the California Highway Patrol,