Berkeley, California became the first American sanctuary city for cannabis as it fights the Trump Administration’s cannabis crackdown. That means that Berkeley will not cooperate with federal authorities and no city funds will used to assist enforcement of federal cannabis laws.
Recreational cannabis became legal in California on January 1st, 2018, and on Jan. 4, anti-cannabis Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded theCole Memorandum, an Obama-era guideline that shifted federal priorities away from cannabusinesses that followed state laws to those involved in illegal activities like selling to minors.
Jeff Sessions’ revocation of the Cole Memorandum means that any business in the cannabis industry across the country is now a potential target for federal law enforcement, regardless if these businesses follow the laws of their state or not, setting up a constitutional battle between the federal government and states such as California where cannabis is legal.
As California’s Attorney General Xavier Becarra told CNN, “We’ve had to confront the Trump Administration for their constitutional overreach and we’re going to protect not just our people but our laws.”
Berkeley’s sanctuary city declaration is a direct response to Jeff Sessions, and this isn’t even the first time that Berkeley has done this with cannabis- back in 2008, Berkeley declared itself a sanctuary city for medical cannabis.
As Berkeley’s mayor Jesse Arreguin said in a press release, ““Millions of peaceful Americans have been fined, arrested, imprisoned, or otherwise needlessly criminalized and stigmatized, sometimes for life, because of their use of marijuana. This War on Drugs has cost over $1 trillion dollars and turned the U.S. into a nation of mass incarceration — imprisoning 2 million American citizens.”
It’s worth noting that in the same meeting where Berkeley declared itself a cannabis sanctuary city, it also dropped the sales tax on recreational cannabis to 5%.