Capitol Beat – California, Cannabis and S.F. Police Reform

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

Over the past six years, the Legislature and supporters of medical and recreational cannabis have been working to rein in and organize the laws in California surrounding a movement that began with Proposition 215 in 1996. 

Recreational cannabis became legal this year due to the passage of Proposition 64 in November 2016. PORAC had opposed the proposition, but Californians overwhelmingly approved it. Fortunately, the Legislature had the foresight to create a regulatory structure before the initiative passed to avoid the major obstacles other states experienced when they legalized medical and/or recreational cannabis.

The California Legislature created, under the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Cannabis Control. The Bureau’s sole jurisdiction is the regulation of medical and recreational cannabis, from “seed to sale.” It recently released emergency regulations and has begun distributing licenses from 17 categories.

The Legislature is still grappling with many issues regarding the legalization of cannabis. These include banking, taxation, marketing, labeling, location restrictions and environmental policy.

A major concern of public safety is that the number of motorists driving under the influence of marijuana will increase. The Legislature will be developing a strategy on how best to approach the issue and conduct appropriate field sobriety tests. PORAC hopes this will allow law enforcement to be proactive and ultimately reduce the number of accidents and fatalities due to driving under the influence.

PORAC understands that the climate is changing in California. Although the full outcome isn’t known yet, we will keep you apprised of changes as these new laws and regulations are enforced.

The Attorney General Steps Into S.F. Police Reform

In October 2016, then-San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee reached out to the Department of Justice’s COPS Office and asked them to complete a federal review of the San Francisco Police Department. This came after a series of racist and homophobic text messages between officers was disclosed and after the 2015 shooting of Mario Woods — which led to the police chief’s resignation. The review showed that use of force was more prevalent against African Americans than for any other race and police stopped African Americans at a disparate rate. The COPS Office also provided 272 recommendations for the Department to consider, including improvement in community policing, racial bias, use of force and recruitment.

Fast-forward to September 2017, when the DOJ announced that the COPS program would no longer assist law enforcement agencies on reforms such as those in San Francisco. On February 5, 2018, the City of San Francisco and Attorney General Xavier Becerra held a news conference announcing that the California Department of Justice will be stepping into the role of reviewing and reporting on the city’s progress in making the reforms. They will be the “independent eye” assessing what the police are doing. During the conference, the City said that the Department has implemented over half of the reforms recommended by the DOJ in 2016, and that uses of force fell 18% and citizens’ complaints dropped 9% in the last year.

Among the reforms implemented are:

  • Automated electronic audits to identify and root out bias
  • Procedural justice training
  • New units including a “Community Engagement Division”
  • Accountability/transparency — implementation of body cameras
  • Recruiting of a diverse force to gain different perspectives in regards to different cultures, countries of origin, education levels, religions, etc.

Attorney General Becerra said at the news conference that this is just the beginning and he hopes that the collaborative reform won’t end with San Francisco.