How California Leaders Are Fighting Back Against Sessions’ Marijuana Crackdown – And What Could Get In Their Way

Photo Credit: Jose Luis Magana

California legislators are fighting back against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attempt to crack down on state cannabis programs, launching letter-writing campaigns, proposing new laws and discussing federal lawsuits to safeguard legal marijuana.

“The genie is out of the bottle, so to speak,” said Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, who’s calling for federal legislators to block Department of Justice appointments until the Trump administration changes its stance on marijuana.

“It is time that we address cannabis as adults.”

That defiance is tinged with concern: If an amendment that protects the state’s medical cannabis businesses expires Friday, along with the federal budget, it could give Sessions and other marijuana opponents a window to go after California’s emerging, multibillion-dollar legal industry.

But California lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they don’t believe federal authorities have the resources or — aside from Sessions himself — the political will to target businesses and consumers in states where marijuana is legal.

In fact, they said Sessions’ efforts may be fueling a bipartisan push to support state rights on this issue, and to end the war on drugs once and for all.

“Not only are we fighting back, but we’re moving forward,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, in a press call Wednesday in which she announced a proposed bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

Eight states, including California, have legalized recreational cannabis. And 29 states permit medical marijuana. But marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which still lists it as a Schedule I drug, on par with heroin.

For the past five years, an Obama-era policy has offered legal marijuana states some protection from federal prosecution. The Cole Memo, issued by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in August 2013, stopped federal officials from going after individuals and businesses in legal marijuana states if they were taking certain steps to keep cannabis from getting to kids and the black market.