All politics is local, and that certainly seemed to be the case for the city of Pismo Beach when it comes to discussing the legalization of recreational marijuana in California.
During a Dec. 20 debate about whether to extend an emergency ban on the outdoor cultivation, sales, and other recreational marijuana-related activities in the city, some members of the City Council and staff questioned what impact President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), might have on the state’s plans to enact Proposition 64.
“Sen. Sessions has been a vocal opponent of marijuana of all sorts,” City Attorney Dave Fleishman told the council.
Sessions said in April that “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and called the drug a “real danger.” In 1986, a former colleague testified before Congress that Sessions once joked that the he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.”
While states like California, Colorado, and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana, it remains a Schedule I drug according to the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Sessions’ possible appointment has many pro-legalization advocates fearing a crackdown. It’s also become a source of uncertainty for California cities trying to grapple with just how Proposition 64 will impact their policies.
“I had the same concern too about what the new administration would do on this very same issue because there’s federal pre-emption,” said Pismo Beach Mayor Ed Waage.
A shift in federal marijuana policy was just one of the reasons Fleishman recommended the council extend the temporary urgency ordinance, which they passed Nov. 14. However the vote, which needed four out of five votes to pass, failed 3-2, with councilmembers Erik Howell and Marcia Guthrie both voting against extending the urgency ordinance, which expires Dec. 30.
Recreational marijuana businesses will not be able to get licensed to operate in the state until at least January of 2018, according to the provisions of Proposition 64.