In a historic move, Berkeley City Council has unanimously approved a resolution to become a sanctuary city for cannabis businesses and users, providing an added layer of protection from Federal prosecution.
“The city of Berkeley does not support cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration in its efforts to undermine state and local marijuana laws,” the resolution states.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who proposed the measure, posted on Twitter that the move to protect the recreational marijuana industry is the first of its kind in the country. However, this resolution is not the city’s first effort to declare Berkeley a marijuana sanctuary. Berkeley City Council adopted a similar resolution ten years ago that applied to medical marijuana.
The resolution, proposed by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and City Councilmembers Ben Bartlett and Cheryl Davila, comes in direct response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ crackdown on the use of recreational marijuana.
“In light of threats by Attorney General Sessions regarding a misguided crackdown on our democratic decision to legalize recreational cannabis, we have become what may be the first city in the country to declare ourselves a sanctuary city for cannabis,” said Berkeley Mayor, Jesse Arreguin.
Sessions formally rescinded the “Cole Memo” in early January. The Obama-era policy enabled states to legalize marijuana without federal intervention. In Sessions’ one-page memo, he made it clear that marijuana possession and distribution are against federal law, and gave US attorneys free reign to prosecute.
Under the new resolution, no Berkeley department, agency, commission, officer or employee “shall not use any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal drug laws related to cannabis.”
The resolution does not prevent law enforcement officials from collaborating with federal agents on non-marijuana-related criminal matters.
Will It Work?
Noncompliance may slow attempts at federal enforcement, as the DEA and DOJ often rely on local law enforcement agencies to provide information and support for their operations, but experts say that ultimately it will be challenging to stop federal law enforcement operations should the Feds choose to pursue criminal charges.
California voters approved Proposition 64 in 2016. The bill made it legal for all adults 21 and older to grow, possess, and use limited quantities of marijuana for recreational purposes. The law went into effect this past New Year’s Day.
California state and local governments still have a lot of work to do to have the massive industry running smoothly. Experts predict California’s marijuana industry to bring in $1 billion annually in tax revenue by 2021.