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California Legislature

California could become a 'sanctuary state' for the marijuana industry under this lawmaker's legislation

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, center, plans to revive a measure that would make California a sanctuary state for the marijuana industry. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, center, plans to revive a measure that would make California a sanctuary state for the marijuana industry. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Alarmed by the threat of federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states that license its sale, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) on Thursday said he will revive a bill that stalled last year and that would make California a so-called sanctuary state for the marijuana industry.

Borrowing an idea from a new state law on immigration enforcement, Jones-Sawyer’s measure would prohibit state and local agencies, absent a court order, from assisting in federal drug enforcement efforts targeting those who have state licenses to grow and sell marijuana.

The bill would, among other things, prevent the state from providing federal agents with the names, addresses and other business information of firms issued permits to grow, distribute and sell marijuana.

Jones-Sawyer proposed bringing the proposal back on the same day that U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said he is rescinding an Obama-era policy that allowed medical marijuana to be sold without fear of federal prosecution.

The Assemblyman said Californians spoke when they approved Proposition 64 in 2016, legalizing marijuana sales for recreational use.

“Therefore, state resources that are paid by tax dollars should not be used to disrupt lawful businesses,” he said. “It was for these reasons that I introduced Assembly Bill 1578, which will protect Californians who are operating legally under California law.”

Jones-Sawyer said he is working with the office of Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders to move the bill forward this year.

Shawn Hauser, an attorney specializing in cannabis law and policy, agreed that the state could make it harder for federal prosecutors to pursue cases in California.

“One of the more effective items Atty. Gen. Becerra could do is enforce California’s cannabis regulations and direct its employees to not cooperate with any federal enforcement action that undermines those regulations,” Hauser said.

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