California Defiant in Face of Federal Move to Get Tough on Marijuana

The memo reminded prosecutors that “marijuana activity is a serious crime.” Mr. Sessions mentioned in a press release that “stricter enforcement by prosecutors will help tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

Leading voices in California’s marijuana trade mentioned Thursday that whereas the announcement by Mr. Sessions might need punctured some of the thrill surrounding legalization, it didn’t change their plans to participate in what’s the world’s largest authorized marketplace for leisure pot.

“This has changed zero on the ground for us,” mentioned Steve DeAngelo, the manager director of Harborside, an organization with dispensaries in Oakland and San Jose.

“I don’t think this is going to result in any serious attempt to shut down the legal cannabis industry,” Mr. DeAngelo mentioned. “It’s more of a delaying tactic than a knife to the throat of the industry.”

Californians permitted Proposition 64, which allowed for leisure use of the drug, by a 57 p.c to 43 p.c margin in a November 2016 poll initiative.

Carla Lowe, the Northern California director for the advocacy group Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, mentioned she hoped the Sessions memo would focus consideration on a drug that was being produced at a lot greater ranges of efficiency than in earlier a long time.

“I’m concerned what this is doing to developing brains in young people,” she mentioned.

“I would hope this would get the attention of some of the people who are law-abiding citizens,” Ms. Lowe mentioned. “But I don’t know that there’s much hope in California.”

Lawyers who specialize in hashish mentioned they have been skeptical that federal prosecutors could be extra aggressive in California for a number of causes, together with a perceived reluctance of jurors in the state to convict marijuana instances, particularly small-scale ones, that don’t contain different crimes. Lawyers additionally level out that the Trump administration has not but appointed its personal federal prosecutors in California.

Additionally attorneys mentioned the Justice Department is constrained by the Rohrabacher-Farr modification, which has been hooked up to Congressional funds payments in latest years, and prohibits the Justice Department from spending cash on the implementation of state medical hashish legal guidelines.

“The message to the industry is that nothing has really changed,” mentioned Sean McAllister, a lawyer who specializes in hashish instances in California and Colorado. “The industry has flourished in an environment of uncertainty for the past 20 years. Sessions’ memo does not create any additional uncertainty that did not already exist.”

But the uncertainty is nonetheless substantial. The Sessions announcement could give additional pause to massive corporations which were reluctant to make investments in the marijuana enterprise as a result of of concern of retaliation by federal authorities. And small-scale veterans of the trade — the cottage marijuana companies in the famed Emerald Triangle of Northern California, amongst others — face potential threats of forfeiture, as they at all times have. If prosecutors have been to crack down, sellers and anybody caught in possession of the drug might go to jail.

Yet as a sensible matter, officers from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration have mentioned that combating opioid trafficking is rather more vital than cracking down on marijuana given the company’s stretched assets.

Russ Baer, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, mentioned in an interview final 12 months that the majority of the company’s assets have been being spent on combating opioids. “We are spread thin,” he mentioned.

Local legislation enforcement can also be stretched. Thomas D. Allman, the sheriff of Mendocino County, one of the three counties in the Emerald Triangle, mentioned Thursday that investigating marijuana cultivation was not a excessive precedence, except it was “out of control” or concerned different crimes, such because the environmental harm.

“If somebody is obeying state law, I’m going to say there are not many local law enforcement agencies who are going to be rushing out to do an investigation,” Sheriff Allman mentioned. “There are many other crimes we can focus on that impact the safety of the community.”

Hezekiah Allen, the manager director of the California Growers Association, a hashish trade group, says whereas marijuana growers are involved concerning the extra aggressive federal posture, longtime growers have seen it earlier than.

“Folks that have been at this for a few generations remember that this is a cycle,” Mr. Allen mentioned. “Federal enforcement ebbs and flows and it has for decades. This is another enforcement cycle but this time we have a state government that is working with us. And frankly enforcement wasn’t all that effective in the past.”

On Thursday, amongst prospects on the Berkeley Patients Group, a dispensary that sells leisure marijuana, there was defiance and eye-rolling amongst when requested concerning the Sessions memo.

“To me, they’ve always wanted to destroy everything Obama did. It’s all in that vein,” mentioned Barry Alexander, 61, a supervisor at a Whole Foods grocery store. Mr. Alexander was skeptical that the Trump administration might do a lot to change legalization in California. “We’re like Texas, we’re our own country,” he mentioned.

Ian Carr, 23, a building employee who purchased hashish at one other dispensary in Berkeley, the Cannabis Buyers Club, shrugged off the prospect of a federal crackdown.

“I’ve been using marijuana since before it was legal,” he mentioned. “So I’d just go back to that.”

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