California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Thursday that if a new federal policy results in prosecutors charging marijuana growers and sellers licensed by the state, he would not rule out intervening in court on behalf of the state-sanctioned business.
“You take a look at everywhere you can to protect your people and your interests,” Becerra said in an interview with the Times.
He said that he may also collaborate with attorneys general in other states that have legalized marijuana sales to fight any federal enforcement effort.
“We look for every opportunity to make sure that the interests of the people in our state are not infringed upon, and that would mean if the federal government tries to do something it shouldn’t and can’t, that we’re ready to protect those interests and work with other states along the way,” Becerra said.
California is one of 29 states that have approved the sale of marijuana for medical purposes and eight that have given the green light to the sale of cannabis for recreational use. State officials voiced their concerns after U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions on Thursday rescinded a federal policy that had local pot sellers confident they would not be prosecuted if licensed by the state.
Becerra has sued the Trump administration more than two dozen times as attorney general, mostly successfully. His strategy has included challenging the administration for changing policies and rules without sufficient public input or following federal rules.
Asked if California could take similar legal action, Becerra said it depends on what the federal government does next.
“Like so many of these actions that the Trump administration has taken, they have tripped over themselves and given us opportunities to legally stop them in court,” he said.
One thing the state attorney general can do is to make sure California’s new marijuana rules are enforced strictly and that sellers and growers are not feeding the black market, which might give the federal government an excuse to step in.
“We can make sure that we are transparent and doing everything according to the laws of the state of California so it’s clear that it’s a legitimate business,” he said. “If they want to go after legitimate business owners, legitimate users of a product that is legal in California, if they want to go after the veteran who has PTSD, if they want to go after the grandmother who has got chronic illness and is using it to relieve pain, that’s what they’ve got to decide.
“I thought they had a whole bunch of human traffickers, drug dealers and potential terrorists that they had to go after, that they wouldn’t go after the grandmother or the veteran,” he added.
Becerra said Sessions’ decision was telegraphed some time ago.
“The storm clouds have been on the horizon for a while on this,” he said. “I think most people recognize this is 2018, not the 20th century, so we will continue to move forward.”