California may be on a collision course with the federal government when it comes to drug policy.
A bill currently pending before the California State Assembly, AB 390, would remove marijuana and its derivatives from California's controlled substances statutes and would establish a regulatory scheme making marijuana accessible to adults over 21 years of age. Consistent with its purpose of legalizing marijuana in California, AB 390 would also preclude state and local assistance to federal agencies seeking to enforce federal marijuana laws within the state.
While the federal government has implicitly accepted state decriminalization of marijuana for medical use in California and other states, it has not previously had to deal with the sort of widespread marijuana legalization envisioned by AB 390. If AB 390 becomes law, the federal government will be forced to choose between largely ignoring federal marijuana law violations there and dramatically stepping up resources to enforce federal marijuana laws without state or local cooperation. Either way, the likely outcome is an arbitrary enforcement scheme in which most Californians producing, selling or using marijuana do so freely, while those few ensnared by federal authorities suffer criminal penalties.
With local and state law enforcement currently responsible for 95 percent of the country's marijuana arrests there were 78,000 marijuana arrests in California in 2008 the significance of California's legalization scheme to evenhanded application of federal drug policy is tremendous. Californians who produce, sell or use marijuana could find themselves caught in the cross-hairs of federal agents determined to quash California's move toward independence from the federal drug laws.
On the other hand, with an October Gallup Poll showing support for marijuana legalization at an all-time high, California may have chosen the optimal time to consider AB 390. Nationally, 44 percent of the population favors legalization of marijuana, while in the West, 53 percent do. In California, support for marijuana legalization is even higher, pegged at 56 percent by polls cited by the Drug Policy Alliance. The number of Americans supporting marijuana legalization has grown steadily in the past decade.
If California prevails, AB 390 may be hailed on several fronts for clearing overcrowded prisons of nonviolent offenders and shoring up the state's budget with a badly needed $3.1 billion.
What remains to be seen is whether legalization through AB 390 would be the first nail in the coffin of unpopular federal drug policies or whether the federal government would pour resources into crushing the rebellion.
Article provided by Law Offices of Leon J. Mezzetti, Jr. Visit us at www.mezzetti.com