Department of Justice announces possibility of enforcement against recreational marijuana

Cannibus Collective
Rashad Sisemore/File

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Just months after California legalized the recreational use of marijuana, the Trump administration announced that it may be more strictly enforcing federal laws against recreational drug use.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during his Thursday press briefing that the Department of Justice will likely enforce the federal government’s laws against the use of medical marijuana — President Donald Trump has not commented formally on the matter. Cannabis is still illegal under the federal law, but some states, including California, have created laws legalizing the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.

During the November election, the recreational use and cultivation of marijuana was legalized in California under Proposition 64. Under the proposition, the legalization of marijuana sales for recreational use will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, but because the drug is still federally illegal, the Department of Justice could choose to enforce federal laws within the states, according to campus political science lecturer Alan Ross.

“Trump is not overstepping his power. If they went to court, he would win,” Ross said.

Deborah Sadler, manager of Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley, said as a medical dispensary in the state of California, her dispensary is protected by the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment — legislation that protects states with legal medical marijuana from federal interference. Passed in 2014, the amendment prohibits the federal government from using federal funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.

During Spicer’s press briefing, he did make a distinction between medical and recreational uses of cannabis. He said Congress already decided how they would handle the use of medical marijuana and the Department of Justice will be further looking into recreational use.

Victor Pinho, a spokesperson for local dispensary Berkeley Patients Group, said he hopes that as a medical dispensary it is protected from federal law enforcement and that the Trump Administration will not take action against medical dispensaries in California. Pinho added that Spicer’s comparison of medical marijuana to opioids was flawed.

“Spicer tied cannabis use to opioid addiction,” Pinho said. “The facts are flawed for them to wage a war on cannabis.”

Cal Berkeley Democrats Vice President Caiden Nason said he believes that the enforcement would be more an attack on communities of color, which are incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts, than an attack on the drug itself.

A spokesperson for Berkeley College Republicans could not be reached for comment.

Ross said if the federal enforcement takes action, the black market for marijuana would continue to grow, use would not drop and jails and prisons would be filled with people with drug offenses.

Stephanie Le, campus freshman and avid weed user, said the administration’s potential enforcement won’t affect her use.

“I’m still going to get my weed, except now it would feel more like an act of defiance when it shouldn’t be that way,” Le said.

As neither Trump nor Attorney General Jeff Sessions have commented on the matter, the administration’s course of action remains unclear. But Pinho said the Berkeley community “should prepare for everything because anything is possible with this administration.”

Mayor Jesse Arreguin criticized via a Facebook status the administration’s statement for limiting state’s rights.

“Trump & Sessions want to place greater enforcement against recreational cannabis use in states where it’s legal. So much for states’ rights,” Arreguin said.

Contact Jessíca Jiménez at [email protected].