UPDATE: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Executive Lori Ajax indicated Thursday that they will defend the state’s marijuana law following a memo from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding an Obama-era hands-off directive in states that have legalized marijuana. The regulated sale of legalized pot in California is not only expected to provide $1 billion in taxes but curtails the sale of unsafe cannabis on the black market. Sessions’ memo allows the state’s four federal prosecutors to decide whether to enforce federal law that equates pot to heroin.
Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions must be pulling out his thin white hair—marijuana is now legal in the state of California. As of Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, Californians over the age of 21 are permitted to carry up to one ounce of pot without fear of being busted.
Sessions, who wants to jump start the failed “war on drugs,” famously criticized former President Barack Obama for not halting the cultural drift toward acceptance.
“You can’t have the president of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink,” Sessions said at the time. “It is different. … It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
And besides, Sessions said during a 2016 Senate hearing: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” In fact, he once said the KKK was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.”
But statistics don’t back up the attorney general’s brand of morality. “The data from the federally-funded National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows a downward trend in the use of cannabis by teenagers—both in the country as a whole and in the majority of states where the drug is legal,” reports Newsweek.
However, marijuana is still federally classified as a schedule one drug, which means it is legally considered in the same category heroin, cocaine, meth and fentanyl. Meanwhile—in a test of federalism and states rights— recreational marijuana is legal in eight states and Washington D.C, and medical marijuana is legal in D.C. and 29 states, including California.
And, thanks to legislation in 2014 from Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)—the Justice Department was not allowed to spend congressional funding “to prevent [states] from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
That effectively ended FBI and DEA raids of pot farms that produced safe marijuana for medical marijuana dispensaries in states where pot is legal, forcing growers to face criminal charges as happened repeatedly in Northern California and notably, in West Hollywood, as well.
The federal raid in West Hollywood in 2001 was traumatic. Scott Imler, author of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, passed by California voters in 1996, worked with the City of West Hollywood to set up the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center to strictly provide terminally or chronically ill patients with medical marijuana with a doctor’s note.
Imler, who the FBI investigated for drug distribution, went on a hunger strike after the Oct. 25, 2001 DEA raid. He was joined by a number of AIDS activists, including ACT UP/LA’s Pete Jimenez who needed the marijuana to alleviate side effects from his 35-pills-a-day AIDS meds to relief from his neuropathy.
“Some days, it feels like razor blades are cutting into my skin,” Jimenez said at the time. “Then, there’s the diarrhea and vomiting from AIDS medications.” Jimenez died of AIDS on April 13, 2012. He was 48.
Such raids stopped with the Farr-Rohrabacher bill. But a vote on the annual renewal of that bipartisan legislation was blocked in September by House Republican leaders. That was after Attorney General Sessions sent Congress a letter last May asking them to let him prosecute medical marijuana.
“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote.
Sessions is already allowing federal agents to stop and question and take away personal use at or near border stops. And while sales for recreational pot use are allowed in cities including Los Angeles, West Hollywood, San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, Santa Cruz and San Jose, many proposed pot shops are still waiting for their state licenses. And there are other issues, such as driving while stoned.
But California established a Bureau for all that—the Bureau of Cannabis Control —which Sessions may be interested to know, is in the same category as the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The pot department links to the public health department with lots of facts and resources, including these handy tips:
You can consume cannabis on private property but you cannot consume, smoke, eat, or vape cannabis in public places. Property owners and landlords may ban the use and possession of cannabis on their properties.
Even though it is legal under California law, you cannot consume or possess cannabis on federal lands like national parks, even if the park is in California.
It is illegal to take your cannabis across state lines, even if you are traveling to another state where cannabis is legal.
Takes the tips seriously because Jeff Sessions’ feds are watching.