California’s Pot World sSes ‘Reefer Madness’ in Sessions’ Assault on Legal Marijuana

Article by Emily Alpert ReyesAngel Jennings and Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times

California's pot world sees 'reefer madness' in Sessions' assault on legal marijuana. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions scrapped a policy that offered legal shelter for state-sanctioned marijuana sales. Emily Alpert Reyes, Angel Jennings and Hailey Branson-Potts

For the steady stream of customers waiting to see a “budtender” Thursday at a Santa Ana pot store, U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ broadside against recreational pot was more a bummer than a buzzkill.

People were annoyed — but not terribly surprised that California, once again, would be going to battle in the cultural wars with the Trump administration.

“This is an attempt to take us back to the ’50s, where you’re a criminal if you use,” said Craig Burns, 66, who came up from Laguna Beach to buy pot at 420 Central dispensary. “But now, even somebody who follows their state’s law is a criminal. It’s going backwards.”

Customer Lyn Terry, a 45-year-old scientist, was more pointed, adding that California’s ideas would eventually win the day.

“Jeff Sessions is an old dinosaur with old ideas,” Terry said. “We have a younger, newer, more educated population who will vote that out. It won’t last.”

California has emerged as a resistance to the Trump administration on a variety of issues over the last year, including immigration policy and environmental protection. Legalized marijuana is perhaps a less weighty issue. But backers see the larger symbolism of California standing up for what it thinks is right and being willing to take on the president.

Sessions on Thursday rescinded an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing marijuana-related charges in states that had legalized the substance, which remains illegal under federal law. Sessions said the previous policy “undermines the rule of law.”

The move came on Day 4 of legal recreational marijuana sales in California. Big crowds have flocked to dispensaries in the few cities that already have begun issuing licenses to pot shops, and Thursday proved no exception, even with Sessions’ announcement.

At 420 Central, the full waiting room resembled that of a doctor’s office, with people playing on their phones as they patiently waited about half an hour to see their budtenders. In the locked room where the marijuana was stored, soft music played, and customers peered into glass cases and sniffed green medicine bottles.

Robert Taft Jr., the dispensary founder, said he thinks Sessions is trying to appease the alcohol, pharmaceutical and tobacco companies that might feel threatened by the new, lucrative marijuana industry. In the first two days of legal recreational sales in California, 420 Central paid $50,000 in federal, state and local taxes, Taft said.

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