SACRAMENTO (Apr. 18, 2017) – Today, an important California Assembly Committee passed a bill to withdraw state resources from federal marijuana prohibition enforcement.
Introduced by Asm. Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Assembly Bill 1578 (AB1578) would ban the use of “agency money, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to assist a federal agency to investigate, detain, detect, report, or arrest a person for commercial or noncommercial marijuana or medical cannabis activity that is authorized by law in the State of California.”
In addition to blocking local officials from participating in federal-only cannabis prohibition, the law would prevent them from sharing personal information with the federal government about cannabis businesses or consumers who are in compliance with state law.
Today, the Assembly Public Safety Committee, which Jones-Sawyer chairs, passed the bill over opposition from law enforcement lobby groups. The vote was 5-2.
Medical marijuana has been legal in California since voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996. Since that time, marijuana has grown to become the largest cash crop in the state, with more revenue than the next five products combined. The $23.3 billion dollar industry is likely to be significantly larger once the Regulate and Tax Adult Use Marijuana Act goes into effect. California voters approved it as Amendment 64 on Nov. 8, 2016.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By ending state enforcement of any federal prohibition that is legal under state law, AB1578 would essentially sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests in the state.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, told the Los Angeles Times the bill was “really quite offensive.” “This is ridiculous that this looks like a solution to somebody,” said Youngblood.
Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effectively method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits. By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal marijuana prohibition schemes, the states can effectively bring them down.
Provisions withdrawing state and local enforcement of federal law in AB1578 rest on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program.
The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. US (1997) serves as the cornerstone. In it, Justice Scalia wrote for the majority:
“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”
Additionally, in the 1842 Prigg v. Pennsylvania case, the Court held that while the federal Fugitive Slave Act could not be physically impeded by states, they simply weren’t required to help the federal government capture runaway slaves and return them to bondage in the South.
This is the same approach being used in AB1578.
The bill is likely to get assigned to the Assembly Appropriations committee, but could be moved directly to the full chamber. Either way, it appears to have some support from leadership.
“This is not symbolic, it’s actually being done to have some teeth,” said Darren W. Parker, Special Assistant to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in an interview with Leafly.
If AB1578 is passed into law, the federal government would find marijuana prohibition nearly impossible to enforce in California.