National News

As Pot Shops Fear Federal Crackdown, CA Lawmaker Introduces Sanctuary-Pot' Bill

Posted January 10, 2018 4:54 p.m. EST

— Local pot shops are preparing for a crackdown on federal drug agents despite the legalization of recreational marijuana.

But state lawmakers are fighting to protect the industry's rights. One Democratic assemblyman wants to make California a sanctuary state for pot which means federal authorities would need a court order to bust a dispensary or marijuana grow.

With cannabis now be legal in California, business at River City Phoenix is at an all-time high.

"We've gone from probably 300-400 patients a day to maybe 500-600," said Matt Z-berg.

But Matt Z-berg fears federal drug agents could still come into his thriving Sacramento shop and take it all away.

"Any day they could come to your front door and close everything down," he said.

And U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is threatening to do just that. Last week, Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy allowing marijuana to be sold without federal prosecution.

California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) is determined to stop the feds with a sanctuary-pot bill.

"Local law enforcement should not waste their resources on going into legal state and local cannabis establishments," said Jones-Sawyer.

It would work like California's sanctuary state law, shielding illegal immigrants from federal immigration agents. The only difference here is that local and state law enforcement would be barred from helping federal drug agents. Without a court order, the feds won't be able to arrest people complying with state marijuana laws.

But would they still go after illegal pot shops?

"We will not inhibit that in any way, in fact, I've added special precautions in our bill to ensure that local law enforcement does, in fact, close down illegal marijuana operations," he said.

Anti-marijuana activists are gearing up for a new fight.

"What it's gonna take in California? They gotta bring out the National Guard and allocate millions of dollars to begin the cleanup," said activist Carla Lowe.

Carla Lowe says that would take a lot of money.

And the feds haven't announced their enforcement plan quite yet.

"I believe the state of California has set up really good regulations and procedures. I'm hoping that's enough to not get us pursued," said Z-berg.

Back at the legislature, the bill is moving through both houses, and advocates are confident the governor will sign it if it gets to his desk.

Meanwhile, are federal prosecutors free to ignore attorney general Jeff Sessions' rescinding of the Obama era policy? In short, yes.

United States attorneys in federal districts around the country have the discretion to continue to focus their resources elsewhere and to not bring marijuana cases.

But it's still unknown how President Trump's justice department will handle the new policy in practice.

Sessions has the power to replace attorneys who don't enforce marijuana laws with those who will.