One of the greatest champions of cannabis in Sacramento is now California’s new Attorney General.
Rob Bonta, who has served as a California state assemblyman for the East Bay’s 18th District since 2012, has a long history with cannabis. Much of Oakland’s industrial Green Zone falls in the heart of his district, just across the water from his hometown in Alameda. He would end up being one of the industry’s biggest assets. But it’s not just the weed crowd that’s happy. Bonta’s work on other issues including immigration detention centers and wider criminal justice reform have progressives across the spectrum giving Gov. Gavin Newsom a thumbs up after some shaky months during the pandemic.
As Xavier Becerra packed up shop last week after being confirmed as the Biden Administration’s Health and Human Services Secretary, the focus shifted to who would fill the seat that has proven a christening to higher office for many. As many have noted, that includes the current vice president and the state’s previous governor. Now that we have Bonta, arguably the most progressive person to ever sit at the desk, where does the road go from here?
There is so much work to be done for an Attorney General that won’t regularly have to sue the leader of the free world 100 times. How does pot weigh into the grand scheme of things now that Bonta is the state’s top cop?
Well, when it comes time for Bonta to speak on cannabis, he’ll certainly be able to do so with an authority we’ve never seen by his predecessors. Let’s not forget, before Vice President Kamala Harris reconnected with her roots on The Breakfast Club, pot policy was a laughable thing to CA Attorneys General not that long ago. But by the will of voters and the almighty dollar, pot is now legal and the industry probably got one of the more helpful people it could have asked for.
Bonta authored Assembly Bill 2355 last year, just one of his many legislative efforts involving cannabis. It would prohibit employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their status as a medical cannabis patient or on the basis of a patient’s positive drug test for the presence of cannabis.
Cal NORML’s Deputy Director Ellen Komp told L.A. Weekly the organization is delighted by Gov. Newsom’s choice of Bonta to serve as Attorney General.
“Asm. Bonta has been a strong supporter of criminal justice reform in California, and a leading champion of enlightened cannabis policy in the state Legislature, sponsoring bills to expunge the records of marijuana offenders, lower taxes on cannabis, protect employment rights for cannabis consumers and regulate the cannabis industry,” Komp said.
While some in the industry have questioned the perks of the move and losing his leadership on cannabis in the Assembly, Cal NORML thinks the move puts Bonta in the driver’s seat for some major criminal justice reforms.
“As AG, he will be uniquely and perfectly positioned to ensure that the automatic expungement of past marijuana crimes in California mandated by his AB 1793 (2018) is carried out throughout California,” Komp said. “I particularly appreciate that Asm. Bonta introduced his bill after a constituent asked him at a public meeting why he had to petition to have his record updated (in the process codified in Prop. 64). To me, that shows that Bonta listens to Californians’ concerns, and cares deeply about justice, enough to take necessary action.”
When we asked the United Cannabis Business Association for their take on the news, UCBA President Jerrod Kiloh told L.A. Weekly, “UCBA wrote a letter of recommendation to the Governor’s office a few months back suggesting Bonta would be the best candidate for the AG position. For context on our position and early support.”