BERKELEY – The Berkeley City Council approved a resolution Tuesday declaring itself a sanctuary city for “adult-use cannabis customers, providers and landlords.”
The resolution passed unanimously as part of the consent calendar.
The resolution reads in part that, “no department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the City of Berkeley shall use any City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of Federal drug laws related to cannabis.”
Mayor Jesse Arreguin announced during the meeting that the resolution had been amended to clarify that it only applies to drug laws.
“The prohibition on police officers and other city staff to engage with DEA is limited to the enforcement of drug laws and not any other criminal matter,” Arreguin said.
The resolution is patterned after sanctuary ordinances intended to protect undocumented immigrants. Local police are instructed to not cooperate with U.S. immigration officers in the detention of immigrants.
Theoretically, the cannabis resolution would work the same way. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration often partners with local law enforcement agencies when performing raids.
The resolution was sparked by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement in January that he was rescinding U.S. Department of Justice guidelines from 2011 known as the “Cole Memo” that set the federal government’s enforcement priorities. The memo said marijuana enforcement should be left to the states and prosecutors should focus on cartel activities and sales to minors.
The resolution was authored by Arreguin and council members Ben Bartlett and Cheryl Davila. The accompanying staff report cited the city’s history of supporting the decriminalization of marijuana laws and the fact that 83 percent of Berkeley voters supported Prop. 64 in November 2016, which legalized recreational use in California.
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However, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, which is defined as a drug, substance or chemical “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
The most Berkeley part of the resolution was that it was approved as part of the consent calendar, which typically contains routine items that don’t need to be discussed, such as approving payroll or the minutes from a previous meeting. Council members don’t typically discuss items on the consent calendar and there was almost no discussion of the matter at the meeting. Just one member of the public spoke on the resolution, asking if the city’s administration had discussed the matter with the police department on what the city wants officers to do. No answer was given.
Arreguin had to tell the assembled media that the item had been approved about five minutes after the vote. Several television stations had sent crews expecting to record what elsewhere would be considered a contentious issue.
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