California Could Become a Sanctuary State for Marijuana Users

Legal tinder at MedMen in West Hollywood
Legal tinder at MedMen in West Hollywood
Gustavo Turner

There are far greater worries than marijuana policy these days. The Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate accord, which sought to slow global warming. The White House is under scrutiny for its connections to a Russia that U.S. intelligence concludes attempted to throw the 2016 election in Trump's favor. And, around these parts, people are being deported under an apparent zero-tolerance immigration policy. Many L.A. immigrants are afraid of the day when their loved ones simply don't come home.

Cannabis isn't a top issue, but California still has marijuana on its mind. A proposal that would turn California into a "marijuana sanctuary state" passed a major hurdle recently when it was approved by the state Assembly. AB 1578 by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles would essentially prevent local cops from joining in federal raids against people otherwise abiding by Golden State law, which allows recreational and medical marijuana possession. The bill guts funding for such law enforcement action and parallels the policies of some local police departments, which have decided not to participate in federal deportations.

The law still needs to get through the Senate and its Public Safety Committee before Gov. Jerry Brown can sign it into law. The legislation appears to have drawn a lot of enthusiasm, even from Trump supporters.

"The Department of Justice has more important things to worry about than whether responsible adults are consuming marijuana, especially in a state that had the sense to legalize and regulate it," former police commander Diane Goldstein, an executive board member of the decriminalization group Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), said via email. "A majority of Americans — including folks who voted for President Trump — do not want the federal government to interfere with states' marijuana laws."

Drug Policy Alliance described the law this way: "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."

The nonprofit says it's a necessary bill in a state with more dispensaries and cultivated acreage than any other. Early on, pot proponents said the Trump administration's intentions weren't entirely transparent. President Trump had expressed some support for medical marijuana in the past, for example.

But now they're saying it's increasingly clear that the administration intends to crack down on pot in states that have legalized it in various forms. Trump's signing statement for the Consolidated Appropriations Act declared that the federal government would indeed crack down in medical marijuana states. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions has essentially relaunched a war on drugs that the Obama administration had started to abandon.

"Trump and Sessions’ threat to California is real," DPA state director Lynne Lyman said in a statement. "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."


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