California Marijuana Laws And “Sanctuary State” Status

California Marijuana Laws And “Sanctuary State” Status

When compared with the rest of the U.S., California marijuana laws are some of the most progressive in the country. In 1996 the state legalized medical marijuana, and 20 years later voters approved recreational sales and consumption by a margin of roughly 56 percent to 44 percent. Golden State legislators are trendsetting once again with California marijuana laws by passing a “marijuana sanctuary state” bill.

What do you mean, “sanctuary state”?

The phrase “sanctuary state” is a play on the expression “sanctuary city,” which is often used when discussing immigration policy. In that context, a sanctuary city is one that has passed municipal ordinances preventing local government and law enforcement from aiding federal authorities in their attempts at implementing national immigration rules.  

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Similarly, a sanctuary state is one that abstains — on a much larger scale — from assisting the federal government on a particular issue. In this circumstance, the California Assembly prefers to not help their federal counterparts when it comes to cannabis since California marijuana laws and federal marijuana laws are vastly incongruent.

What’s in the bill and why was it drafted?

In short, the bill (AB-1578) prohibits any state or local agency from assisting any federal agency’s attempts to implement federal marijuana laws that are incompatible with California marijuana laws. Only a signed court order from a judge can alter that.

Here’s a passage from the bill itself:

This bill would prohibit a state or local agency, as defined, from taking certain actions without a court order signed by a judge, including using agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized or allowed under state or local law in the State of California and from transferring an individual to federal law enforcement or detaining an individual at the request of federal law enforcement or federal authorities for marijuana- or cannabis-related conduct that is legal under state or local law.

According to the Associated Press, AB-1578 was introduced by Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles “amid uncertainty surrounding how President Donald Trump’s administration will deal with states that have legalized marijuana.”

What’s next for AB-1578?

The bill now heads to the state Senate and its Public Safety Committee for further consideration and intensified scrutiny. If it clears those hurdles, then Gov. Jerry Brown can sign it into law.