California Assembly Passes Cannabis ‘Sanctuary State’ Bill

Portending an unprecedented showdown with federal power, last week, California’s State Assembly approved a bill that would bar state and local law police from cooperating with the DEA and other federal agencies in cannabis enforcement efforts, unless compelled to do so by a court order.

“Prohibiting our state and local law enforcement agencies from expending resources to assist federal intrusion of California-compliant cannabis activity reinforces…the will of our state’s voters who overwhelmingly supported Proposition 64,” Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, lead author of the bill, told the Los Angeles Times when it was still pending.

Assembly Bill 1578, sponsored by six Democratic legislators, passed by a razor-thin 41 out of 80 votes.

If it passes the Senate and goes to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, it will put him in a bit of a pickle: state law enforcement is thoroughly opposed. The California State Sheriffs’ Association (CSSA) said in a statement. “Our message is clear: marijuana is a dangerous drug and California should not legitimize its use.”

CSSA president Donny Youngblood, sheriff of Kern County, called the bill “quite offensive.”

But there’s no doubt the bill would make many constituents happy.

Legal cannabis is big money in the Golden State, and industry players are increasingly worried about a Trump crackdown. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making increasingly intolerant noises, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently got in on the act, saying, “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement” of federal cannabis laws.

The bill is similar to legislation that would bar California law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials in the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Senate Bill 54 would make California a “sanctuary state” for immigrants—while AB 1578 would make the Golden State a sanctuary for the cannabis industry.

As ever, it is amusing to see conservative Republicans abandoning their supposed commitment to states’ rights where the federal crackdown on drugs, crime and immigration is concerned.

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