As California begins the process of formally regulating and taxing its marijuana industry to bring the nation's largest marijuana economy out of the black and grey markets, the Los Angeles County Sheriff says that California businesses should expect a federal crackdown.
On Tuesday, during an interview with the Associated Press, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell says he thinks it's likely that the federal government will conduct raids on the marijuana industry in California.
In February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that marijuana should not be legalized because he thinks it's surrounded by violence and warned how he will implement "reasonable policies" to enforce federal law banning marijuana. Sheriff McConnell expects the Justice Department will step up enforcement efforts in California to "set the tone" of Sessions' rhetoric, McConnell tells the AP.
McConnell says his staff has been getting ready for California's legal regulations to kick formally on Jan. 1, 2018, when the state starts to issue permits and licenses to companies that are compliant with state marijuana laws.
But, McConnell doesn't think that marijuana legalization will make his job easier. He says he is preparing for what he calls a potential "health crisis." McConnell says he has seen an increase in the number of kids going to the emergency room for accidental ingestion of cannabis-infused food products.
McConnell also says he believes there will be more drivers who are under the influence of marijuana.
Politicians and entrepreneurs who support legalization say the exact opposite, explaining that marijuana regulation and taxation, similar to alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals, will reduce crime, reduce access for kids, and create millions in tax revenue.
McConnell did concede that federal drug enforcement resources are low as the nation is in the grips of a deadly opioid epidemic, which claims more lives than car accidents. Even still, he still believes the Justice Department will crackdown on marijuana.
On Tuesday night, Los Angeles voters approved Proposition M, a ballot measure that allows the city council to license, regulate, and tax marijuana businesses after the state legalized adult-use in November 2016 and medical in 1996. The new law, according to LA County City Council President Herb Wesson who spearheaded the measure, helps to legitimize cannabis businesses with formal regulations.