What the Justice Department's crackdown on marijuana means for local governments

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday, the Justice Department would be rolling back an Obama administration policy to not challenge state laws that allow for use of medical and recreational marijuana.

The news came just days after shops in California opened for the now legal recreational marijuana business. While the California voters approved the legalization of marijuana, the state left it up to local governments to decide whether or not to embrace the change and if they did, to also decide the rules and regulations for marijuana in their jurisdictions.

Many of the counties in the Greater Sacramento area have a commercial ban on marijuana and don't allow outdoor grows or dispensaries. However, these ordinances only apply to unincorporated parts of the counties. City governments can set their own laws despite the county rules.

Sessions did not go into detail on any new specific guidelines for how the changes would be enforced and also left much unanswered on what would happen in states where marijuana is legal.

With many unanswered questions, local governments who have spent time and effort to allow legal marijuana have to wait and see what's next.

Placer County bans all commercial use of marijuana but allows the state minimum of six plants for personal cultivation within a private residential property. Sacramento County also prohibits commercial use of pot but allows personal cultivation for nine plants. 

In Placer County most cities ban commercial use of marijuana as well, with the exception of Colfax, which is home to the county's only dispensary, according to Chris Gray-Garcia, spokesperson for Placer County.

In Sacramento County, the city of Sacramento voted to embrace the recreational marijuana business. However, other surrounding cities such as Citrus Heights and Folsom prohibit commercial marijuana and outdoor cultivation.

Both Placer and Sacramento County governments won't see much change despite the announcement from the Justice Department since both counties currently ban marijuana in all unincorporated areas.

Sacramento County is already cracking down on illegal grows and will continue to do so, according to Sacramento County Board Supervisor, Don Nottoli.

In August, San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors expanded a commercial ban on cannabis to cover the state changes that went into effect on January 1st, according to Deputy County Counsel, Zoey Merrill. 

However, the board is currently working on an ordinance to allow commercial cannabis in the county. The county is decided to keep the ban in place while working on the details of the ordinance. These matters, as well as the regulations for personal cannabis cultivation will be discussed at a board meeting on Jan. 9.

Like Sacramento and Placer County, San Joaquin County's current laws won't be greatly impacted by the Justice Department because of the restrictions.

For now, much is unknown for the cities and counties which have legalized marijuana since the Justice Department has yet to release new policies.

© 2018 KXTV-TV


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