Looking for a way to battle against a potential crackdown by the Trump Administration on legalized marijuana, California lawmakers have turned to another area where they don’t always see eye-to-eye with officials in Washington.
Taking a page from laws creating sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, a group of lawmakers have submitted a bill that bans California law enforcement from working with federal authorities if they attempt to take action against marijuana grow facilities or dispensaries that operate legally under state law. Doing so would require a court order signed by a judge.
Assembly Bill 1578 lays out the goal plainly.
The bill forbids local authorities from working with federal agents, including using “agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California.”
The local agencies include “but is not limited to” police, sheriffs, university police and any state agencies. In another words, everybody.
States’ Rights vs. Federal Law
The bill clearly has come in reaction to rhetoric of officials in President Donald Trump’s administration. Under federal law, marijuana remains an illegal drug, listed as dangerous as heroin.
Among those who keep reminding the nation of this fact is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has made his opposition to marijuana legalization clear multiple times (famously opining that “good people don’t smoke marijuana”). Here are some of his latest comments during a press conference in March.
In April, Sessions charged a task force that he created with reviewing lenient federal enforcement policies in regard to marijuana. This also certainly include the Cole Memo, written by an attorney in the Justice Department during President Barack Obama’s administration. The memo restricts enforcing federal marijuana law in states where marijuana is legal.
Sessions has said much of the memo is “valid,” but the appointment of the task force as well as the request for records from Colorado about marijuana law enforcement has some continuing to question what Sessions has in mind.
California is one of eight states (including the District of Columbia) that have made adult-use marijuana legal. Sales are expected to start in January 2018. If the job growth and economic boon of marijuana that has happened in Denver is any indication, California has a potential billion-dollar industry on its hands.
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who represents Los Angeles, is the lead sponsor on the bill. He told L.A. Weekly his main goal is to protect the burgeoning marijuana industry in the Golden State, which he called “one of the greatest businesses” in the state.
Adam Spiker, executive director of the Southern California Coalition that represents legal marijuana businesses, said the coalition is focused on making sure “the intent” of the bill becomes law. “Cherry-picking when to respect states’ rights and arbitrarily doing so is inconsistent at best and confusing at most,” he told L.A. Weekly.
On the other hand, law enforcement officials have opposed the bill. “This is ridiculous that this looks like a solution to somebody,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, told the Los Angeles Times.
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