California Could Soon Be A 'Sanctuary State' For Legal Marijuana
If passed, assembly bill AB-1578 would ban state law enforcement from cooperating with a federal crackdown on cannabis.
The narrative surrounding the California marijuana industry is weedy, sun-grown, and effervescent. The Golden State struggle to bring a currently gray-area business into a regulated market structure seemingly changes weekly, as local and state legislation is proposed, approved, written, and re-written to meet the needs and agendas of many vested interests.
In November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act ––a recreational-use initiative that saw little opposition from the public and received one million dollars in funding from tech billionaire and former Facebook executive Sean Parker. Then in early 2017, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to give consideration to a proposed measure from two county supervisors that would green-light 135 county-sanctioned marijuana retailers.
Still, fear of a federal crackdown on the recreational marijuana industry nationwide has been looming since President Trump's administration took office. A resulting uneasiness has prompted state legislators to propose rules, measures and initiatives that would safeguard their respective cannabis markets, such as California's recently introduced Assembly Bill 1578.
Legalization advocates and anyone working in what bill sponsor Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D) called "one of the greatest businesses" in California, should be stoked. If passed, AB 1578 would make the Golden State a "sanctuary state" for the legal weed businesses.
According to Huffington Post:
"The proposed legislation would prohibit state and local agencies — unless served with a court order — from using local money, facilities or personnel to assist a federal agency to “investigate, detain, report, or arrest” any person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California — and transferring an individual to federal law enforcement authorities for purposes of marijuana enforcement.”
"California authorities would also be barred from responding to requests by federal authorities for the personal information of anyone issued state licenses for a marijuana operation."
Though it should also be noted: the bill would only provide legal protection for legal marijuana businesses, which currently would not include more than 1,000 dispensaries in Los Angeles alone.
"We have to get the illegal ones out," Jones-Sawyer said to L.A. Weekly.
While some protection is likely better than none at all, not everyone is stoked. In addition to speaking out against the bill, opposition to AB 1578 is also vocal about its stance on California cannabis policy reform:
"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," Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana told L.A. Weekly.
"Science and evidence––not politics––should drive marijuana policy in California," Sabet said.
Despite disagreements over the how California will regulate, tax, and control retail pot sales, the stakes are clear: the Golden State is expected be the major driver of recreational marijuana revenues nationwide––$22.6 billion in projected revenues nationally by 2021, to be exact, per a report from industry analytics and investment firm The Arcview Group.
Considering the likely economic impact of legal pot for California alone, that's a future worth protecting.