Cannabis business owners and users from Berkeley, California got an early Valentine’s Day love letter from their city council on February 13. On that day, officials from the city cast their votes in favor of making Berkeley an official cannabis sanctuary for recreational marijuana.
This action was a response against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ revocation of the Cole Memo earlier last month. The AG’s legal move contradicts what the American public is asking for. He has since been receiving major criticisms and disapproval not only from the citizens of the US but also from the Congress.
The council’s resolution called out the federal government’s lack of guidelines on what constitutes illegal and not for marijuana-related businesses. This, according to them creates an uncertainty for those who would like to venture into the recently regulated industry in the state of California.
They also added that the stricter federal enforcement will create a serious economic and social effect on those who will be charged with cannabis-related offenses. The confusion regarding the possible implementation of the nationwide crackdown may push the established medical or recreational marijuana-related ventures to move underground if they won’t totally shut down their operations.
Finally, they were firm in their statement that the federal government cannot stop California in their road to developing a regulated cannabis market. They also believe that this is a better approach to ensuring public safety in the city.
The Cannabis Sanctuary title is not only for show as the municipal council of Berkeley explicitly gave an order to forbid their local agencies and officers from utilizing the city’s resources in assisting in the execution of federal anti-marijuana operations. Berkeley City does not stop there as they also ordered their staff to withhold any data and information on the municipality’s marijuana business and businesses owners. This includes some of the country’s oldest dispensaries in the business along with the manufacturers who just got their licenses.
The council also mentioned the 1979 ballot initiative in the resolution. Among other things, this voter initiative gave the directive to the local law enforcement agency to make marijuana the lowest priority in their duties. Although it has been a law for almost forty years, the implementation did not go smoothly as it caused the police department to produce reports of marijuana arrests.
Realizing the undesirable impact of the prosecution against cannabis peddlers and users, Jesse Arreguín, the Mayor of Berkeley, signed the resolution on February 14.
— Jesse Arreguin (@JesseArreguin) February 15, 2018
The decree noted that the Berkeley city council are clear in their stance in supporting the industry of cannabis, countering the federal government’s mandate in 2008. It was the same year the Department of Justice started the proceedings versus the Berkeley Patients Group. The 15-year old marijuana shop that presents itself as the oldest medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley received a win against that case.
The federal judge granted them the right to continue their operations while he considers the pending hearings.
“We’re thrilled to see the city taking this step in publicly supporting the cannabis industry in Berkeley,” Sabrina Fendrick, relations director of the administration at the Berkeley Patients Group said. She also added that she was pleased to know that the City of Berkeley carries its longtime support for the legalization of marijuana however the federal government goes against it.
Fendrick also noted that the act was more symbolic than legal. Berkeley is miles ahead in terms of their support in the industry compared to other regions in the US but this does not stop them in sending a message, a public statement, through this kind of initiative.
Josh Drayton, the Communications and Outreach Director of the California Cannabis Industry Association from Sacramento praised and congratulated Berkeley, stating that it once again lead the movement and could be an exemplary model to other cities and states in their fight for total marijuana legalization.
Just recently, the city also voted on an ordinance that foresees a drop of five percent in the local tax fees for marijuana. This council will once again cast their votes next week in order for the markdown to take effect.