The Davis City Council is poised this week to adopt a proposed medical and personal cannabis cultivation ordinance, following a March 21 workshop where council directed staff to return with a Personal Use Ordinance, and a future date to decide on the commercial ordinance.
Second reading is currently scheduled for April 18, with the ordinance taking effect on May 18, 2017. This follows the passage of Proposition 64 in November statewide.
California is one of seven states where voters have ballot measures to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. But there is uncertainty in the air as the Trump administration has put states on notice that it will strictly enforce federal laws on the use of recreational marijuana.
Back in February, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the Justice Department is likely to increase enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
“I do believe think you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” Mr. Spicer said.
Mr. Spicer did differentiate between medical and recreational use of the plant, stating that the President “understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana can bring them.”
Recreational marijuana, he said, is a “very, very different subject.”
Recent polling shows 71 percent of voters, according to Quinnipiac University Poll, believe that the federal government should not enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized it.
“The vast majority of Americans agree that the federal government has no business interfering in state marijuana laws,” said Mason Tvert, the communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. “This administration is claiming that it values states’ rights, so we hope they will respect the rights of states to determine their own marijuana policies.”
Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, has long been an opponent of drug legalization.
“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Mr. Sessions said in February. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago.
“We’re seeing real violence around that,” Mr. Sessions said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.
“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he said. “States, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”
The International Business Times reported last Friday that President Trump and his administration are planning to take steps to make good on this pledge. Correspondence obtained through a public records request “showed a Justice Department official requesting information about marijuana cases from the state Attorney General’s office in Colorado.”
“Are you able to provide me the state docket numbers for the following cases?” said the email from a Justice Department official to Michael Melito, a prosecutor in Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s office. “Some of our intel people are trying to track down info regarding some of DEA’s better marijuana investigations for the new administration. Hopefully it will lead to some positive changes.”
Mr. Trump had campaigned pledging to respect states rights, and back in July of 2016 he promised not to use federal authority to shut down recreational marijuana. He stated, “I wouldn’t do that … I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
Back in March of 2016 he said, “I think it certainly has to be a state — I have not smoked it — it’s got to be a state decision … I do like it, you know, from a medical standpoint … it does do pretty good things. But from the other standpoint, I think that it should be up to the states.”
But that appears to have changed.
Mr. Spicer followed up his February 23 comments with the statement cited above, wherein he said states can pass the laws they choose, but it still remains a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States.
However, Politico reported that Mr. Sessions privately reassured Republican senators that a marijuana crackdown was not imminent.
California Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom, considered a candidate for governor in 2018, wrote a letter to President Trump in February stating, “The War on Marijuana has failed. It did not, and will not, keep marijuana out of kids’ hands.”
He added, “Protecting youth and promoting public health and safety is paramount. We can’t continue to keep doing what we’ve done and expect a different result. A tightly regulated marketplace for adult recreational marijuana use is a new and better approach.”
Bob Ferguson, the AG for Washington State who led the lawsuit against the travel ban, has indicated that he would oppose any moves by the Trump administration to interfere with his state’s marijuana laws.
In a letter to AG Sessions, he wrote: “My office will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the federal government does not undermine Washington’s successful, unified system for regulation of recreational and medical marijuana.”
In the meantime, the city of Davis will move forward with its personal use and cultivation ordinance, which is authorized under current state law.
At the March 21 meeting “there was a request made by a member of the public for the City to use the term cannabis in place of marijuana, as some feel there are negative connotations associated with marijuana. Staff felt this request could be reasonably accommodated and have made changes to the proposed Ordinance accordingly.”
In the ordinance draft, the city staff writes, “State law uses both the terms ‘marijuana’ and ‘cannabis’ with identical or nearly identical meaning, and therefore the City Council has decided that consistently using the word ‘cannabis’ in the Ordinance is an appropriate revision to the City’s Municipal Code in light of social stigma or negative public perception that may be tied to use of the word ‘marijuana,’ but that ‘cannabis’ shall mean and include ‘marijuana’ as used and defined in State law.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting