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Cannabis Sanctuary State? California Looking to Strike Back Against Sessions


Last week’s announcement by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind protections on state-legal cannabis programs sent a shockwave through the fledgling industry around the country. Specifically, the federal guidelines from the US Justice Department put in place by Eric Holder during the Obama years known as The Cole Memo. That shockwave hit – and then it bounced back.

Legislators and public law enforcers in states ranging from Colorado to Oregon to New York to Oklahoma fired back at Sessions and the Trump administration over the past week in both symbolic and overt gestures, blasting the reversal of policy and the back-tracking of campaign promises by the 45th president, who vowed to uphold states’ rights on cannabis.

A number of California leaders have also jumped in the fray, some long-term advocates of change such as Gavin Newsom, and some perhaps looking to score political points with a now-popular issue. (Ahem, Kamala Harris.)

Now, a state lawmaker from Los Angeles, Democrat Reggie Jones-Sawyer, wants to create a “marijuana sanctuary” in the State of California, citing the egregious toll the drug war takes on communities of color.

From the Sacramento Bee:

“‘The impacts of this ill-conceived and poorly executed war are still being felt by communities of color across the state,’ Jones-Sawyer said in a statement. ‘The last time California supported the federal government’s efforts, families were torn apart and critical state resources were used to incarcerate more black and brown people than ever before in the history of our state.’

“Jones-Sawyer said he’d work with Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature to advance his 2017 proposal, Assembly Bill 1578. The bill stalled in the Senate in June after clearing the Assembly floor.

“Modeled after California’s new law that restricts law enforcement agencies’ ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, helping shield undocumented immigrants from widespread deportation, the bill seeks to prevent state and local agencies from helping federal drug enforcement agencies target the state’s burgeoning marijuana industry without a federal court order.”

While California struggles to find the right balance in their own regulations which will support disenfranchised communities and allow for broad access to entrepreneurial endeavors in 2018, one thing is clear. The cannabis movement remains tied to a fight for social justice. California has already been an unofficial “marijuana sanctuary” for decades. Let’s see if the state is ready to codify that status and take a bold stance against federal interference.

If you are in the cannabis industry, or are thinking of joining, the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, this February 1st & 2nd, is THE marijuana event for you. Learn the latest about California’s regulations, what may be on the horizon, and how businesses can best avoid federal interference. Early Bird tickets are on sale now. Get your tickets now before prices go up!

Gavin Newsom, Jeff Sessions, Kamala Harris, marijuana sanctuary, Reggie Jones-Sawyer