Just four days after the sale of recreational marijuana became legal in California, via voter-approved Proposition 64, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the demise of directives issued by the Obama administration that allowed states to legalize marijuana without fear of federal intervention.
In response, two members of the California state Assembly introduced bills to protect recreational marijuana use in the state, and further the work of Prop. 64.
Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) introduced AB 1578, which aims to “provide state agencies with the protection they need to uphold state laws without federal interference,” and “protect Californians who are operating legally under California law.”
The bill seeks to block federal agents from arresting people who are complying with the state’s marijuana laws without first obtaining a court order.
Jones-Sawyer slammed Sessions’ move to drop the Obama-era cannabis policy. “Now more than ever, the people of California need protection from the outdated federal approach of the ‘war on drugs,’ Jones-Sawyer said. “The impacts of this ill-conceived and poorly executed war are still being felt by communities of color across the state.”
By voting Prop. 64 into law, “California overwhelmingly sent a message to the federal government that their cannabis-centric ‘war on drugs’ should not be waged here,” the legislator added.
In addition to legalizing recreational marijuana sales and use, Prop. 64 also reduced marijuana-related sentences and opened up a path for people who have committed certain marijuana offenses to petition to have their records changed or expunged.
Possession of more than an ounce of weed—the legal limit under Prop. 64—is now a misdemeanor offense, and the penalties for selling-related offenses have also been reduced.
This week, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced AB 1793, a bill that would automatically reclassify or expunge marijuana-related convictions from eligible Californians’ records, rather than require them to submit petitions for the changes to occur.
“The role of government should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law—not create unneeded obstacles, barriers, and delay,” the assemblymember said. “This is a practical, common sense bill. These individuals are legally-entitled to expungement or reduction and a fresh start. It should be implemented without unnecessary delay or burden.”
Other California leaders are also standing up to defend marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform. In the hours after Sessions issued the memo, both California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the head of CA’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, Lori Ajax, quickly issued statements vowing to fight for voter-approved Proposition 64.