With the incoming federal crackdown on marijuana, California elected officials and cannabis industry leaders said Friday they are preparing for a battle in the courts and Congress to protect state laws rights and the rights of their citizens.
States have to find a way to resist the federal government’s oppressive behavior. States need to be allowed to govern the way they see fit and if the people voted for legal marijuana, then the federal government needs to respect that and spend money in productive ways rather than trying to fill up private for profit prisons with nonviolent people.
There is also the logical way of thinking that would involve the federal drug laws being updated to reflect modern scientific knowledge.
At a press conference on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the Trump administration plans to crack down on states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Federal law does not differentiate between medical and recreational marijuana use.
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” he said. Spicer claims they will not be going after medical marijuana users at this time, but we must consider the source of the information. Spicer is not known for being an honest person.
LA Times reported the latest development could force California officials and marijuana industry leaders into an unusual alliance against the federal government, with billions of dollars in profits for businesses and taxes for state coffers at stake.
The state agency responsible for drafting regulations said Friday it is continuing its plans to start issuing licenses to growers and sellers.
“Until we see any sort of formal plan from the federal government, it’s full speed ahead for us,” said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
The Times discussed some of the official’s stances and how they might fight back.
In Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) plans to introduce legislation that could blunt Spicer’s threat by preventing the Department of Justice from enforcing federal laws against the recreational use of marijuana in states that have legalized it, a spokesman said Friday.
And industry officials warn that any federal crackdown in California and other states will result in many growers and sellers continuing to operate, but on the black market.
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra says he is ready to safeguard the rights of the 56% of voters who approved Proposition 64, which allows California adults to possess, transport and buy up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.
“I took an oath to enforce the laws that California has passed,” Becerra said in a statement Thursday after Spicer’s comments. “If there is action from the federal government on this subject, I will respond in an appropriate way to protect the interests of California.”
State lawmakers also say California should do what it can to preserve Proposition 64.
“We will support and honor the laws that California voters have democratically enacted,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), an author of legislation creating the licensing system for medical marijuana dispensaries.
Becerra would likely be joined in any defense of the state’s marijuana policy by attorneys general in other parts of the country. Recreational use has also been legalized in Washington state, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, home to a combined 68 million Americans.
Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, who has worked with Becerra on opposing President Trump’s travel ban, said he and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last week asked for a meeting with U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to discuss how the recreational marijuana use system is working in their state.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading supporter of Proposition 64, took a similar approach, sending a letter Friday to Trump urging him not to carry through with threats to launch a federal enforcement effort.
“I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other … states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children, while targeting the bad actors,” the Democrat wrote.
Amy Margolis, an attorney whose law firm has more than 200 clients in the marijuana industry, envisions the marijuana industry and states joining forces to combat the DOJ in courts as a state rights issue.
“This industry is so mature and it’s so far along that I have no doubt that if the Department of Justice started true enforcement actions against cannabis businesses, that they would go to court,” Margolis said. “I see joint actions between the states and the industry hoping to prevent those type of actions.”
“The argument would be that this is a situation where the states have the right to regulate and tax an industry the way they want,” she said, adding that states are gaining tax revenue to pay for government programs.
Although federal law does not outline a medicinal use for marijuana, Trump administration officials have made public statements indicating they recognize that such a benefit exists, which could help the industry in a potential court case, Margolis said.
Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law, does not believe the states or marijuana industry will be able to fight the federal law because federal laws overrule all other laws. He admits there are limits to federal power, but the courts have held that the federal government has the authority to enforce federal drug laws.
“I imagine that California will mount a legal challenge to any crackdown on recreational marijuana,” Winkler said. “Yet there is not much California can do. Federal law is supreme over conflicting state law. Federal agents are entitled to enforce federal law anywhere in the country, including California.”
The Times continued:
Aaron Herzberg, an attorney for the industry, agreed that the state would face a tough fight. He cited the 2005 case Gonzales vs. Raich, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown marijuana even if states approve its use for medical purposes.
“Let’s face it: If the federal government wants to shut down recreational marijuana they could quite easily accomplish it using federal law enforcement and taxation tools,” Herzberg said.
Others say one basis for legal action would be an argument that enforcing laws against marijuana would damage states that have put regulations in place and are depending on hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay for government programs.
States are too far down the path of regulating, licensing and taxing those who are making big investments in the sanctioned marijuana industry to pull the rug out now, said Richard Miadich, an attorney who co-wrote Proposition 64.
“Given the strict regulatory structure set forth in Proposition 64, that medical and adult-use regulations are being developed in concert, and that public opinion is squarely on the side of states’ rights on this issue, I think it is impractical for the federal government to reverse course now,” he said. “Not to mention the potential for great harm to individual states.”
Supporters of Proposition 64 say there is also a potential political solution.
In recent years, Rohrabacher and Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) won congressional approval of a rider to the federal budget that prohibited federal funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana businesses that are in compliance with state laws.
Rohrabacher plans to introduce legislation that would expand the protection to businesses that comply with state laws allowing the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational use, according to spokesman Ken Grubbs.
The congressman is planning the legislation “because recreational use is an issue of individual freedom and should be dealt with legally according to the principle of federalism, a bedrock conservative belief,” Grubbs said.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) is also “reviewing options to counteract whatever the Trump Administration’s plans” are for state marijuana laws, said Lieu senior advisor Jack d’Annibale.
Another option, though a long shot, would be for Congress to attempt to change the federal Controlled Substances Act to decriminalize the use of marijuana nationally.
Herzberg said reinstituting federal raids would be “a major setback for the industry.”
But the state could still go ahead with a licensing system for medical marijuana growing and sales in spite of a federal crackdown on recreational use, according to Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Assn.
“A vast majority of California growers and cannabis business owners would choose to participate only in the medical marketplace if given the option, and some would choose to avoid licensure entirely if they were unable to distinguish themselves from adult-use businesses,” Allen said.
Maybe it is time to update the federal drug laws to keep up with modern scientific information. Marijuana has been proven not only safe but medically amazing for many ailments and it is past time for the federal government to acknowledge it and change the laws.
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)