California’s Cannabis Conservation

A group of six California legislators, led by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, have drafted new legislation in response to the Trump Administration’s statements on marijuana. The bill, which has drawn disapproval from local law enforcement officials, aims to block local police and sheriffs’ departments from assisting federal investigations and arrests of state licensed marijuana businesses unless compelled by a court order. According to Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer, “[p]rohibiting [California’s] state and local law enforcement agencies from expending resources to assist federal intrusion of California-compliant cannabis activity reinforces…the will of [the] state’s voters who overwhelmingly supported proposition 64.”

Those opposed to the bill, like Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, believe directing law enforcement’s cooperation with the federal government is “really quite offensive.” Youngblood further argues “[growing and selling marijuana] is still a federal felony and we are still in the United States of America and the state of California cannot take over the United States.”

In response, the bill’s proponents assert pot protective legislation is necessary because marijuana businesses pursuing state licenses need assurance that licensure will not make them more susceptible to arrest and prosecution under federal law. Accordingly, the bill seeks to prohibit local law enforcement agencies from using any resources to assist a federal agency to “investigate, detain, report or arrest” licensees unless served with a court order. The bill would also ban California authorities from giving licensees’ personal information to federal agencies. According to the bill’s co-author, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, protecting licensees’ personal information ensures they are willing to share it with state regulators. Currently, California’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation treats all requests for personal information as a formal request and determines, pursuant to the information sought, what it may release and what is exempt from disclosure.

This bill reiterates that when it comes to cannabis, California law makers are on the side of the compliant. To ensure their compliance and its accompanying protections, California marijuana businesses should take advantage of compliance platforms like PayQwick, whose comprehensive compliance assessment programs incorporate all applicable federal and state laws, regulations and guidelines. By making compliance a priority, these businesses can worry less about federal prosecution and focus more on profits.

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