How Steinberg's marijuana bill could end dispensary bans and federal crackdown in California

Ahnuld inhaled—but Sen. Darrel Steinberg’s
getting the job done for Golden State stoners.

Is Sacramento state Sen. Darrell Steinberg a new leader for the reform of California’s marijuana laws?

It appears so.

Here’s how:

in Colorado and Washington, marijuana is legal. Anything goes—even feeding weed to pigs. Meanwhile, the federal government continues its nearly 2-year-old crackdown on Golden State’s medical-pot community—going so far as to threaten dispensary owners with 40-year jail terms. And counties such as Sacramento have banned dispensaries outright.

Enter Senate Bill 439, which passed one house of the state Legislature this past Monday.

Steinberg’s proposed law clarifies that if a pot club that operates within the state attorney general’s guidelines, its owners can’t be subject to prosecution by local or state law enforcement.

That’s a big deal. For instance, does it mean a county such as Sacramento can ban dispensaries, but not have the recourse to follow-through with the ban via the sheriff’s department?

The bill, which passed 22-12 in the Senate, also allows pot-club operators to take a salary and “receive compensation for actual expenses incurred in carrying out activities” of operating a dispensary.

It’s worth noting that Sacto Mayor Kevin Johnson signed on as a supporter of S.B. 439, along with one other mayor.

As SN&R reported in this week’s issue, Sacto-based U.S. attorney Benjamin Wagner told guests at a speaking engagement last week that Colorado and Washington face less federal scrutiny because their weed laws were written better, while it remains a pot “free-for-all in California.”

This legislative pitch possibly flies in the face of the California Supreme Court’s recent ruling that allows local governments to ban cannabis dispensaries. And also belies Los Angeles voters decision yesterday to put a limit on the number of weed clubs in the city.

So, will it be Steinberg, of all people, who lays the groundwork for a California cannabis crackdown truce?

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