A bill before the General Assembly would have established a new state department to register commercial growers and sellers. It would have tightened restrictions on doctors’ recommendations and given municipalities the power to ban dispensaries. And it would have codified the California Attorney General’s medical marijuana guidelines as law.
Currently those guidelines are abused by both police and collectives. Making them law would have created an enforceable set of regulations – the very thing law enforcement groups and other opponents of medical pot have been pleading for.
Yet those very groups killed the legislation, Assembly Bill 604. They lobbied against it extensively up until the deadline for its approval by the state Legislature Sept. 12.
Why? Because most police leaders in California don’t believe marijuana is medicine, ever, and they’re intent on repealing the state’s medical marijuana law, passed 17 years ago and never seriously challenged since, at the ballot box or in court. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected a long-shot attempt by San Diego County to overturn the law.
Confusing Law Enforcement Tactics
How California police believe they’ll succeed has never been made clear. Their main tactic appears to be obstructionism. On the one hand they complain about the lack of proper regulation. On the other they prevent that regulation so they can continue complaining about the lack of proper regulation.
“It is this intransigence that reflects badly on the law enforcement profession and validates that the Chiefs continue to place politics before public safety and safe access for patients,” said Diane Goldstien, spokeswoman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Previous Progress Prevention
This is not the first time this year the law enforcement lobby has blocked progress on marijuana regulation in California. Last month they were able to sink a bill sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg that also would have codified the medical marijuana guidelines.
The official position of the California Narcotic Officers Association, the lead group lobbying against regulations, is that medical marijuana is an infection.
“I’d definitely call this ‘medical marijuana thing’ an epidemic that is infecting our society,” says an association training guide from 2011. “This ‘infectious spillover’ is even affecting us (law enforcement). Also think about the fact that the next generation of law enforcement in this state has grown up thinking marijuana is a medicine.”
Developments Due to New Federal Policy
These developments fly in the fact of recent announcements by federal law enforcement. In late August, the Justice Department said federal prosecutors won’t go after dispensaries as long as they obey state laws. And the feds won’t interfere with states that choose to legalize, if they enforce rigorous regulations that meet certain priorities (such as keeping kids away from weed).
So California’s narcs are left in a stubborn, untenable position they apparently won’t abandon: Neither state nor federal leaders agree with them, even if they still have the power to kill important legislation.