Trump Effectively Declares War on California, Vowing to Crack Down on Marijuana and Open the Door to Offshore Drilling

Attorney General Jeff Sessions did on Thursday what many have long figured he would – he reversed course on the Obama administration’s moratorium on enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized either medical cannabis or recreational use.  What that means precisely is open to interpretation.

In a memorandum dated January 4, 2018, from Attorney General Sessions, it states, “In the Controlled Substances Act, Congress has generally prohibited the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana.”

The AG writes: “These statutes reflect Congress’s determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime.”

The memo continues: “In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the Department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions.

“These principles require federal prosecutors deciding which cases to prosecute to weigh all relevant considerations, including federal law enforcement priorities set by the Attorney General, the
seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community,” the AG writes.

It adds: “Given the Department’s well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately. This memorandum is intended solely as a guide to the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations, and appropriations. It is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any matter civil or criminal.”

However, locally, California has maintained that it intends to defend the state voter-approved law that legalizes recreational marijuana.

Both Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Executive Lori Ajax issued statements saying they’ll defend Proposition 64.  Prop. 64, passed in 2016 by the voters, legalized recreational marijuana and opened the door to retail cannabis stores earlier this week.

“We’ll continue to move forward with the state’s regulatory processes covering both medicinal and adult-use cannabis consistent with the will of California’s voters, while defending our state’s laws to the fullest extent,” Ms. Ajax said.

“In California, we decided it was best to regulate, not criminalize, cannabis,” Mr. Becerra said in a statement. “We intend to vigorously enforce our state’s laws and protect our state’s interests.”

But the impact on the burgeoning cannabis industry was clear on Thursday as many publicly-traded companies lost 15 to 30 percent of their value.

“This is going to have a significant chilling effect,” said Ames Grawert, an attorney in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “These businesses have always operated with uncertainty, rescinding this policy will make that worse. This could stop the California market from ever getting off the ground, and (Proposition 64) won’t have the effect that California voters indicated they wanted.”

The Sacramento Bee ran an article that the decision by AG Sessions will put the spotlight on the new U.S. Attorney for California’s Eastern District – a recently familiar face in Davis, McGregor Scott.

The Bee writes: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to let federal prosecutors choose whether to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws means the new U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California will have authority similar to what he held during a previous term in the office.  During that time, McGregor Scott prosecuted cases that sent fear throughout the medical marijuana industry.”

Mr. Scott, who just completed his still-unreleased investigation into the Picnic Day incident, was recently appointed back to the office by President Trump.

The Bee reports: “When he served as an appointee of President George W. Bush, Scott prosecuted a number of people in California’s medical marijuana industry, including a case that received national attention involving two young men from Modesto, Luke Scarmazzo and Richard Montes. Scott’s office said their dispensary was a criminal enterprise that flouted laws and raked in cash. President Obama granted Montes clemency in 2017.”

Meanwhile, Swift Reaction As Trump Threatens to Open Up Offshore Drilling in California

President Trump opened another flank later on Thursday when the administration proposed to open for exploration the largest expanse of the nation’s offshore oil reserve to global energy companies, including waters off the coast of California.

The draft plan, announced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, would allow for 90 percent of the nation’s offshore reserves to be open to leasing, including areas off all three regions of the California coast that have been off limits to oil and gas exploration since 1984 during the Reagan administration.

The reaction, not surprisingly, was swift.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement in response.

“This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Oregon, Washington and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike,” the governors stated.

“They’ve chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They’ve chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won’t forget history or ignore science,” the statement continued.   “For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action.”

“The American people deserve smart, strong action to keep our communities healthy, clean and safe. Yet the Trump administration is racing forward with its increasingly brazen attempts to loot our environment and our planet,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Americans from coast to coast will make their voices heard to oppose this blatant corporate giveaway.”

California Attorney General Becerra added: “Drilling off the shores of California’s coast is a non-starter. Our State has banned offshore drilling for a reason: because we don’t want it and because we know what happens when it goes wrong.

“We are evaluating all of our options to protect our State’s pristine national resources,” he said. “And it should be underscored that regulatory agencies in our State will have a say in whether any offshore drilling ultimately does occur.

“Irrespective of the Trump Administration’s backwards action today, California will continue to lead the way on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

“When I was elected to Congress, the very first bill I introduced was legislation to ban oil and gas drilling off of the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf,” Congressman John Garamendi said in his own statement. “The Trump Administration’s plan to expand coastal drilling represents a threat to the health, safety, and environment of every coastal community in the United States. I could not be more strongly opposed, and I will fight this through every possible avenue I have.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. David Greenwald

    What does California being the 6th largest economy on the planet (I believe it might be 8th now) have to do with recreational marijuana laws and off-shore drilling?

  2. John Hobbs

    As an individual I have been ignoring the phony president and his balderdash and always advise others to do the same. Governors Brown, Brown, and Inslee seem to be firm in their resolve to protect the west coast from environmental assault and as individuals we can also resist by simply refusing to cooperate with the federal government until such a time as the traitorous and reportedly mentally impaired usurper can be dispatched.

    I think the bigger issue here is whether we can continue be in a union with those states who have chosen racism and ignorance as their core values? The possibilities for reconciliation with the Trumpkin states seems like one onerous haul and one that will cost too much.

        1. Keith O

          It’s called TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome.  It’s an epidemic in Davis.

          My 401K has been doing very nicely the last year even though several of you afflicted with TDS predicted otherwise.

        2. Keith O

          Well David, it was you that called me out so I gave my answer.  I’m curious David, since you harp on most things Trump does why haven’t you complained about the new Trump tax plan?  Could it be that the new plan is very advantageous for you?

          1. David Greenwald

            BTW, the biggest impact on me by the tax law would be the impact on charitable contributions to the Vanguard which could be a huge negative.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      I wish we could just ignore him.  I am happy for the state to resist but there are limits to that resistance, unfortunately.

      What’s the latest on cannabis shops opening in Davis?  I wonder how this will affect them.

  3. Jeff M

    The Democrats in congress had their chance to deal with this eight years ago.  They didn’t.  So I don’t think the Trump whining is justified on this topic.

    From my perspective it appears mostly a financial issue.

    For example, the federal excise tax on a bottle of booze is $2.14 and the CA state excise tax is $.67.

    So here are these states milking a new profitable sin tax and the feds are not getting anything from it… other than the potential for more regulatory and enforcement headaches and costs.

    Basically the politics at the national level are not yet ready for legalized pot.

    And the federal government mostly ignored it until California went for it.  But the dollars and challenges with respect to the largest state in the nation are big enough to get some attention.

    And yes, Republicans in office at the national level generally dislike California politics as much as California dislikes them in return.   Let’s just agree that California should not expect any cooperation from national GOP politicians… unless the state residents believe they are special and entitled to be treated better than they do in kind.

    Maybe we should just think of this as the national California resistance.

    1. Tia Will

      Jeff noted that in his opinion this is largely a financial issue, and I would agree, but in a more complicated matter than most may be considering. The above article while not to be taken as rigorous scientific evidence or even particularly objective, does touch on some of the peripheral financial issues as well as other issues.

      Pain management is quite complex and individual. Acute pain such as post surgical or associated with acute trauma or infection is best managed with a combination of non steroidal anti inflammatory meds and narcotics with the use of the latter being strictly time limited. Chronic pain however, is a different entity and is rarely best managed with opioids. However, I know from direct experience that a generation of doctors were trained and coached, largely by drug reps to believe that opioids were an appropriate choice for chronic pain. As various different newer and more expensive ( initial) opioids became available there was a profit motive all along the supply chain from doctor to manufacturer. Unfortunately, many opioids are addicting and many have a very narrow range between effectiveness and lethality.

      Marijuana also has properties appropriate for chronic pain management, has less although not no potential for habituation/addiction, and is rarely associated with death.

      In my opinion, risk reduction is a worthy societal goal and regardless of the financial benefits that political leaders may see, there is much to be gained in terms of risk reduction by decriminalizing and regulating in a similar manner to alcohol, the use of marijuana.

  4. CTherese Benoit

    It would be great if the medicinal cannibis was regulated only to be given in its raw form; in juices or however else consumable that does not lead to the high effect. The “high” people get from this stuff makes it hard for me to really trust that we’re not nurturing drug addiction more than healing illness.

    Although I do feel hypocritical saying this as I am among the many that struggle with sugar addiction which is probably just as bad. Hm.

    I just dont feel like Trump is as bad as a lot of people are making him out to be. Definitely not perfect; but if given a chance to be anything but super defensive; I think some may appreciate his strengths. It seems to be like the citizenry is bullying him at least as bad (actually worse) than Obama was bullied. That’s gotta be awfully stressful to be in your first term of presidency with every action you take under constant attack. It seems like everyone wants to look at everything he does in the worst possible light. IJS.

  5. CTherese Benoit

    ***Off topic but please Note: I DO think the threat of nuclear war on twitter is/was a very bad idea.

    Although I think Trump is good at reading people… And anyone who can be verbally provoked to push a nuclear button will eventually do so with/without provocation…

    Maybe N.Korea’s leader is more likely to soften if he faces someone who is bold enough to stand up to him but also succeeds in making himself appear as “unpopular” as Kim is… Probably sounds weird but I think hes kind of egotistical and might like that Trump says the wrong things as much as he does…

    Maybe it’s some psychological strategy Trump is using to diffuse the real threat of Kim. MAY-be Kim is less likely to bite if he gets the satisfaction of “the most powerful man in the world” being as unpopular and tactless as he is.

    1. Howard P

      Well, Claire, maybe you are on topic, sorta’… I’ll try to help connect the dots… there was another ruthless dictator in Asia… as I recall, his name was Pol Pot... and, one could argue that North Korea is preparing a device and a delivery system, that if it falls short of the US mainland, it could be mother of all drilling devices.  Happy New Year!

      See?  Back on topic.

      [Humor can trump things that are unpleasant…oils well that ends well… a coping mechanism]

      1. CTherese Benoit

        😬lol, lets hope that doesnt happen

        Im banking optimism on Kim being young… perhaps Trump is giving him the opportunity to improve his public image… Maybe his getting friendly with the South is a good sign… I feel like anyone planning a nuclear war would opt for more isolation to avoid being stopped….


      2. John Hobbs

        “[Humor can trump things that are unpleasant…oils well that ends well… a coping mechanism]”

        Indeed. You should try some. ;>)/
        “oils well that ends well” My Oxford pal is still reeling from that.!

  6. Howard P

    Trying to stay on topic…

    Can CA do the severance tax thing on off-shore drilling? [I suggest 1000% if CA has to cover spills.  500% otherwise, to make up for CA fed taxes going predominately to “red states”].

    Am all for charitable contributions, if they aren’t coerced/mandated.   The new tax bill increases the CA contributions, and no ‘return to the state’ [CA] is in sight.  Some folk like to say that CA is not “tax friendly”… the GOP is upping that, big time… I say that as an “independent” who trusts neither of the major parties…

    Feds have a choice on MJ taxes, if they legalize it… I don’t care, as I don’t use.  And won’t.


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