Legislation to Protect Californians Against Federal Attacks on Lawful Marijuana Activity Passes California State Assembly

Marijuana from a marijuana farm
Marijuana from a marijuana farm. (Source: Drugabuse.gov)

California Sends Signal to Washington to Stay Out of State-Sanctioned Marijuana Policies and Laws

SACRAMENTO —(ENEWSPF)—June 2, 2017.  Last night, the California State Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit state and local agencies from using resources to assist federal law enforcement authorities with marijuana enforcement against people in compliance with California state law. The successful Assembly floor vote means the bill has cleared its first house, before today’s deadline, and now heads to the State Senate to be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee.

The legislation, authored by Los Angeles Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, AB 1578, will protect Californians who are operating lawfully under our state laws by providing that absent a court order, local and state agencies, including regulators and law enforcement, shall not assist in any federal enforcement against state authorized medical cannabis or commercial or noncommercial marijuana activity.

In 2016, the voters of California overwhelming approved Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which provided that adults 21 and over could purchase and possess a limited amount of marijuana for personal use. However, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have hinted at a forthcoming crackdown on the recreational use of marijuana in states that have approved adult personal use.

President Trump made his intentions loud and clear in recent weeks when he turned rhetoric into policy with his signing statement to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, declaring the federal government’s intention to prosecute and punish states and their residents for using medical marijuana, never mind its recreational use. Additionally, Attorney General Sessions just doubled down by re-declaring the war on drugs. He called for reinstating mandatory minimum sentences and prosecuting all drug-related charges to fullest extent of the law. These policies rollback the gains California has made in fighting mass incarceration and reducing the number of individuals in our overcrowded prisons and jails.

Black and Latinx persons have the most to lose. They disproportionately comprise the majority of individuals arrested on marijuana charges. For example, despite similar rates of drug use and sales across racial lines, from 2006 to 2015, Black people in California were five times more likely than their white counterparts to receive marijuana felonies.

“We supported and passed Prop 64 because of decades of California law enforcement applying marijuana prohibition unequally across racial lines,” said Alice Huffman, president of the CA-Hawaii NAACP. “We do not want to see local law enforcement going back down this path by supporting federal intervention into cannabis activity that is fully legal under state law.”

Approximately 92 percent of drug enforcement is done at the state and local level. Using state and local resources for the new administration’s agenda undermines the will of California voters and the state’s right to enact and enforce its own laws. California would be paying the feds to break its own laws.

In response, Lt. Commander Diane Goldstein (Ret.), executive board member of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, remarked, “The passage of AB 1578 will reduce the harms of the gray and illicit market in our communities, ensuring public safety and health. Critically, this bill demonstrates to Californians that law enforcement understands and respects that police legitimacy requires public support. Law enforcement cannot build community trust if we’re undermining the law.”

There is a real concern about giving the Feds access to information about California residents, especially dangerous for medical cannabis patients and industry providers. Thousands of Californians could suddenly find themselves targeted, harassed, intimidated or prosecuted by the federal government.

“Trump and Sessions’ threat to California is real,” said Drug Policy Alliance state director Lynne Lyman. “It threatens to ensnare law-abiding residents in costly—financially and personally—legal battles and possible incarceration or deportation. It is dangerous and it is expensive. Which means passing Assembly Bill 1578 is urgent.”

Related Material:

Los Angeles Times

California could be a ‘sanctuary state’ from federal pot laws, thanks to razor-thin vote, By: Patrick McGreevy, June 1, 2017

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-marijuana-enforcement-bill-20170601-story.html

California moved a step closer Thursday to becoming a “sanctuary state” where local and state police would not assist federal enforcement of marijuana laws.

The state Assembly approved a bill Thursday barring state and local law enforcement officers, absent a court order, from helping federal drug agents in arresting people who are complying with state laws allowing the use and sale of marijuana.

With a Friday deadline for action, the measure by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) was sent to the state Senate for consideration.

The lawmaker argued his legislation was needed because the Trump administration had threatened to resume enforcement of federal law that considered marijuana an illegal drug.

In November, California voters legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana by approving Proposition 64, two decades after medical use was approved by state voters. The state plans to begin issuing licenses to grow, transport and sell marijuana in January.

“AB 1578 ensures that our limited local and state resources are not spent on federal marijuana enforcement against individuals and entities that are in compliance with our laws,” Jones-Sawyer said during the floor debate.

With law enforcement opposed to the bill, the measure faced long odds and only achieved the bare majority 41-32 vote late Thursday night.

Also against the idea were Republican lawmakers, who said it would hamper the working relationship between California police officers and federal drug agents who might discover illegal activity involving marijuana sales even in a legal market.

“It would interfere with local and state agencies’ ability to cooperate with the federal government,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City). “This is bad policy.”

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) said the Jones-Sawyer bill was similar to sanctuary-state legislation that would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from helping federal immigration agents arrest and detain people in the country illegally.

“This is insanity,” Allen told his colleagues. “This is a complete violation of federal law. The hubris of California Democrats believing they can flout federal law on immigration and drug policy is beyond words.”

He said local law enforcement would be put in “harm’s way” if there was no cooperation with federal drug enforcement officers.

Jones-Sawyer said he was open to revising the bill language to make it clear he wanted to allow cooperation between locals and federal agents in cases where state and federal marijuana laws were being violated. He said there were about 1,400 illegal marijuana businesses operating in Los Angeles that he wanted shut down.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), who co-wrote the bill, said the measure would reassure those who complied with California’s cannabis laws that they would not get in trouble.

“People who are compliant with California law and operate within the legal cannabis market should not have to fear that a state or local agency will participate in efforts to punish or incarcerate them for activity that the state and its voters have deemed legal,” Bonta said.

The Assembly on Thursday also approved a separate bill that merges rules from the medical marijuana laws with those from Proposition 64.

That bill, which also now goes to the Senate for consideration, allows medical cannabis facilities that are for-profit, bans pot billboards on interstate and state highways, requires state licenses after officials determine recreational-use businesses comply with local ordinances, and provides $3 million to the California Highway Patrol for developing drugged-driving enforcement plans.

Source: www.drugpolicy.org