California on crash-course with feds over legalization

Posted on December 27th, 2017 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , .

CaliforniaAs California legalizes cannabis on Jan. 1, it will be opening the door to multiple conflicts with the federal government. How state and federal authorities manage to negotiate the overlapping jurisdictions with now completely contradictory policies will be interesting to watch. In one obvious example, the Associated Press notes that state legalization won't stop federal agents from seizing even in small quantities at checkpoints they maintain on the Golden State's busy freeways.

"Prior to Jan. 1, it's going to be the same after Jan. 1, because nothing changed on our end," said Ryan Yamasaki, an assistant chief of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector. "If you're a federal law enforcement agency, you uphold federal laws."

The checkpoints are maintained up to 100 miles from the Mexican border, considered a final line of defense against smugglers and undocumented migrants who elude agents at the actual crossings. But they also snare US citizens carrying even personal quantities of the herb that California is about to legalize. About 40% of marijuana seizures at Border Patrol checkpoints from fiscal years 2013 to 2016 were just an ounce (28 grams) or less from US citizens, according to government figures. The new state law allows anyone 21 or over to hold up to an ounce.

The Border Patrol operates 34 permanent checkpoints along the international line, plus an additional 100 "tactical" stops, at rotating locations further into California territory. The AP account included no reaction from state officials on what essentially amounts to federal bottlenecking of California law. But this is an abvious recipe for tensions between Sacramento and Washington DC.

Dilemma for organized labor
Another impending conflict concerns plans by organized labor to unionize California's cannabis workforce. The Palm Springs Desert Sun reports that the Teamsters have formed a joint committee of their Northern and Southern California councils to work with the cannabis industry, while the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union already has a Cannabis Workers Rising Campaign that has lead to the UFCW representing thousands of cannabis-sector employees across the US since its beginnings in 2010.

"Tens of thousands of jobs will be created in California as part of this industry, and we want them to be good jobs and Teamster jobs," Rome Aloise, president of the Teamsters joint council for Northern California said in a newsletter this week. California already has over 100,000 legal cannabis workers, with the number expected to increase fast.

The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation & Safety Act (MAUCRSA), which will regulate the cannabis sector in California, requires all businesses with over 20 employees to enter labor agreements. In Los Angeles, the threshold is lower still, at 10 workers. (Passed in June to prepare for recreational legalization, the MAUCRSA replaces the Medical Cannabis Regulation & Safety Act, or MCRSA, which governed the medicinal sector.)

But federal immigration laws will mean an obstacle to unionization of the "trimmigrants"—often young, seasonal workers who come to California from different countries around the world to harvest and trim cannabis plants. They are frequently in the US on student or other visas that do not allow employment. They can only get work permits by applying to the federal Department of Homeland Security. And of course, with cannabis still illegal under federal law, Homeland Security wouldn't consider any such permits—even if the workers were foolish enough to apply, thereby tipping the feds as to their intentions.

The Desert Sun sadly concludes: "With visa regulations keeping them in the shadows, unionization won't be an option until cannabis is federally legalized." 

This is the same dilemma as that posed by the ecological impacts of cannabis cultivation. The problem is real enough, but with the EPA refusing to regulate on the basis of the herb's illegality under federal law, the feds are standing in the way of progress. Similarly, labor abuses of the trimmigrant workforce cannot be meaningfully addressed as long as union representation isn't an option.

These dilemmas could provide the impetus for cannabis advocates to join with immigrant advocates and organized labor to press the federal government to finally get on the side of progress where the herb is concerned.

Cross-post to High Times


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