Our new Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a history with cannabis, and it’s not a friendly one. In fact, when individual states began to go green, Sessions criticized the Obama Administration for not overriding these legalization efforts by enforcing a federal prohibition. As Attorney General, it’s impossible to know how grim things might get, and how Sessions will treat states with adult use or medical marijuana programs. Will he send feds to crack down on state-compliant cannabis businesses? Or will he respect states’ rights?
California lawmakers are not waiting around to find out. They have begun preparing legislation to protect against potential federal interference.
California Assembly Bill 1578 is called “Marijuana and cannabis programs: cooperation with federal authorities,” and it would prohibit state or local agencies from cooperating with federal agencies going after medical marijuana authorized by the state. That means that without a court order signed by a judge, it’s forbidden to use money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel from California agencies to help the feds investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest anyone working with cannabis who is complying with state law.
It’s an ironic turn of events, considering this bill would turn California cops into friends of the State’s weed industry. Police and sheriff departments would be ordered to protect pot, rather than making arrests for those handling a Schedule I controlled substance, in the same category as heroin.
As the Trump administration poses a threat to various cornerstones of California’s economy — everything from cannabis to immigration — AB 1578 is one of several efforts to insulate state sovereignty and defy federal policies that come into conflict with state law.
The bill was introduced on Friday by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), co-sponsored by Bay Area Democrats Senators Scott Weiner and Nancy Skinner, and coathored by Assemblymembers Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), and David Chiu (D-San Francisco). The bill applies to cannabis activity authorized in California’s Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), a current project of the state legislature, as well as the recently passed Prop 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).
“We have worked hard to ensure the state’s regulations for the cannabis industry are effective and reasonable,” said Assemblymember Wood in an email, “and we did this so that these businesses would come into compliance. AB 1578 will give those legitimate businesses the sense of security that they deserve, but also send the message to operators who continue to disregard state law that they will not have those protections.”
Lawmakers will spend the next several months ironing out regulations in both MCRSA and AUMA before they go into full effect in 2018. At that point, if AB 1578 passes, anyone with a medical or adult use license under either of the above two programs, will be protected by state law and state agencies from federal busts.