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What Is the Marijuana Sanctuary Bill?

Sep 15 2017, by Jessica McElfresh in Federal Marijuana Issues, Legal Blog, Marijuana Business

California’s state government may be on the verge of passing a marijuana sanctuary bill. The proposed law would prohibit state and local police from enforcing federal marijuana prohibition laws against individuals and businesses that comply with California’s cannabis laws. If the bill passes, California’s cannabis businesses and its customers will gain peace of mind knowing that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will no longer be able to count on the support of local and state cops to enforce federal laws and regulations.

The Sanctuary Bill Would Bring Stability to California’s Cannabis Industry

The sanctuary bill, officially known as AB 1578, was narrowly approved by the California Assembly in June 2017. The next step for the bill is a vote in the Senate, after which the governor may sign it into law. Once in effect, the bill would make it necessary for state and local police to obtain a court order before helping federal drug agents to target legal cannabis businesses and consumers.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who wrote the bill, states that his measure “ensures that our limited local and state resources are not spent on federal marijuana enforcement against individuals and entities that are in compliance with our laws.” The law would operate as a shield for legally compliant California adult use and medical cannabis businesses and their customers.

According to AB 1578’s co-author, Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), “people who are compliant with California law and operate within the legal cannabis market should not have to fear that a state or local agency will participate in efforts to punish or incarcerate them for activity that the state and its voters have deemed legal.” The new law is an effort to give a sense of security in a rapidly emerging state cannabis market that has long dealt with federal meddling.

Conservatives and the Law Enforcement Lobby Oppose the Sanctuary Bill

AB 1578 passed by only a 41-32 margin in the California Assembly, facing fierce opposition from republican lawmakers and the state’s law enforcement lobby. According to Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), the bill is “bad policy” that would “interfere with local and state agencies’ ability to cooperate with the federal government.”

Even though the bill is narrowly tailored to prohibit cooperation when it comes to the enforcement of federal marijuana laws, opponents see it as part of a pattern. Another sanctuary bill concerning federal immigration laws is also under consideration. The immigration sanctuary bill would prohibit local and state police from helping federal immigration officers to conduct certain operations within the state.

It is unclear to what extent AB 1578 might undermine inter-agency cooperation. The bill only shields legal cannabis businesses and consumers, and even in such cases, these protections may be overridden by court order.

McElfresh Law Can Help

McElfresh Law carefully follows the state legislature’s efforts to bring consistency and predictability to cannabis laws and their enforcement. If you are a California cannabis business seeking knowledgeable and effective representation, call Jessica McElfresh today at (858) 756-7107 to schedule a consultation with a California marijuana business lawyer.

California marijuana laws change frequently. For updated information, see the following pages: Medicinal Uses of Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana Business