If Trump Cracks Down on Pot, Lawmaker Wants Local Cops to Play No Part

Feds get their hands on marijuana
Feds get their hands on marijuana

When it comes to deporting undocumented immigrants, the Trump administration isn't likely to get a lot of help from local police in most of California's biggest cities. A Golden State lawmaker also wants to ensure that the feds won't be able to rely on local and state cops if Trump decides to crack down on another potentially endangered faction in California: marijuana businesses.

In March, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said: "I do believe that you'll see greater enforcement" against legal recreational weed. This came four months after California voters approved recreational marijuana, sales of which will start in 2018.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles said during a teleconference that he's trying to build a blue wall around the state with his proposed law, which would protect "one of the greatest businesses" in California.

"This is the equivalent of noncooperation on deportation and environmental laws, part of the larger California resistance to federal intrusion," says Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML.

Jones-Sawyer emphasized, however, that the law would apply only to legal cannabis enterprises, which will need state and local licenses starting Jan. 1. There's no cover in the bill for the estimated 1,000-plus illicit pot shops in the city of L.A. alone. "We have to get the illegal ones out," the lawmaker said.

The Southern California Coalition, a lobbying group for Greater L.A. pot enterprises, is on board with the legislation, even if some of its constituents — gray-area pot shops — wouldn't be covered. "Cherry-picking when to respect states' rights and arbitrarily doing so is inconsistent at best and confusing at most," the group's executive director, Adam Spiker, said via email. "We are looking forward to making sure the intent of AB 1578 becomes law."

It's still not clear how the Trump administration will respond to recreational pot in California, where it's now legal for anyone 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a well-known critic of the drug, although Trump has expressed tolerance for medical marijuana in the past.

Spicer's remarks in March on possible "greater enforcement" in states that have legalized recreational cannabis have backers of the California bill concerned for the future of what could be a multibillion-dollar industry. Lynne Lyman, DPA's Golden State director, said at the teleconference that the White House was putting out "mixed messages" on pot.

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The group Smart Approaches to Marijuana is opposed to Jones-Sawyer's proposal.

"Science and evidence — not politics — should drive marijuana policy in California," Kevin Sabet, president of the nonprofit's advocacy arm, said via email. "We already know that the full-scale commercialization of marijuana in California would be a serious mistake, just as it would be to spend enforcement resources going after individual marijuana users."

The legislation is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 18.


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