Legislators concerned over federal marijuana decision

Marijuana. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Two Republican Santa Clarita Valley lawmakers signed onto a letter expressing concern about a federal decision to rescind Obama-era policies that softened the federal enforcement of marijuana.

In a letter to four U.S. Attorneys sent Thursday, state Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, and state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, put their names at the bottom of a letter sent by Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga, which supported the “Cole Memo” allowing states that had legalized cannabis to operate free of federal enforcement — as long as public safety is prioritized and illicit market transactions are prevented.

“In recent years, the Legislature of California has enacted several laws and established regulations in response to the voter legalization of both recreational and medicinal cannabis in order to protect public safety and comply with the will of the voters,” the legislators wrote. “Our offices have been involved in crafting a regulatory environment for recreational and medicinal cannabis that squashes illicit activities, and California indeed still has work to do to shut down our states’ large black market for cannabis. We believe that clear steps must be taken by California to improve the robustness of our regulations, particularly in regards to how we track cannabis from seed to sale to prevent illegal diversions. Under the memo, Attorney General Sessions issued today, it appears that federal enforcement of cannabis has been shifted into each of your hands to determine the level of enforcement you deem necessary.”

The legislators also said they would like clarification on who federal law enforcement would target.

“As members of the California Legislature, we respectfully ask that each of you promptly provide the California Legislature with an update on the actions we can expect the federal government to take on each of your behalves, relative to cannabis enforcement,” they wrote. “Specifically, will the new enforcement actions be targeted solely towards the illicit market, or will the federal government devote any resources to enforce actions taken by our constituents operating under the legal framework provided by California law? As servants of the Californian public, we have a duty to establish laws that ensure a healthy and safe living environment for our constituents, while also giving each state the ability to allow or prohibit activities deemed suitable by the will of the voters.”

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom blasted the decision made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“Today, Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration destructively doubled down on the failed, costly and racially discriminatory policy of marijuana criminalization, trampling on the will of California voters and a year-long bipartisan implementation process led by Governor Brown and the California Legislature,” he said in a statement Thursday. “This position defies facts and logic, threatens the promise of a safe, stable, and legal regulatory framework being pursued by twenty-nine different states, and continues the Trump Administration’s cynical war on America’s largest state — and its people and progress — through immigration crackdowns, tax increases, climate policy reversals, health care repeals and now marijuana policing.”

Newsom called the decision an “ideological temper tantrum” and said it “flies in the face of the overwhelming public opinion of a vast majority of Americans.”

“As it has on other issues, California will stand together to pursue all legal, legislative and political options to protect its reforms and its rights as a state,” Newsom said. “I call on our federal leaders to move quickly to protect states’ rights from the harmful effects of this ideological temper tantrum by Jeff Sessions.”

The decision came four days after Proposition 64, the state measure to legalize marijuana that passed in November 2016 by a 57 percent approval rate, went into effect. The measure passed by a fourteen-point margin.

The proposition established a method for tracking and taxing marijuana, according to Newsom’s office. California is one of eight states to legalize recreational marijuana and one of 29 states to legalize medical marijuana.

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