A nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California’s policies and politics

Trump v. California

In this corner: Justice

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Justice

Civil Rights
All talk, no action—yet
It's on!
On the ropes
California wins!
Trump wins!

California lawmakers have called on Congress to reject federal legislation that would allow out-of-state gun owners to pack concealed firearms in public places throughout California.

Before adjourning for the year last week, legislators approved a resolution against two “concealed-carry reciprocity” bills backed by the Trump administration. Those bills would treat permits to carry concealed firearms much like driver’s licenses: A permit in one state would have to be honored in another.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Los Angeles Democrat and author of the resolution, argued that lax gun control standards in other states would undermine California’s strict concealed-carry permitting process should the federal proposals become law. Neither the Senate nor House versions of the reciprocity bills, a top priority of the National Rifle Association, has come up for a vote.

Resolutions are non-binding, mostly symbolic statements expressing the will of the state Legislature. Only one California Republican voted for the measure: Assemblywoman Catherine Baker of Dublin.

Gun-rights activists complain that the current patchwork of state firearms laws presents undue complications for law-abiding gun owners when traveling from state to state. An owner with a permit to carry a concealed firearm in Utah, for example, could run into legal trouble if carrying the same concealed firearm while visiting California.

Legislators also tightened California’s highly restrictive criteria for granting concealed carry permits. A bill from Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, would ban school-district superintendents from granting people permission to carry concealed weapons on campus. The bill now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

When asked whether Brown would sign the bill, a spokeswoman for the administration said the office won’t weigh in on the bill until the governor takes official action.

Protest at San Francisco International Airport in January. Image by Kenneth Lu via Wikimedia Commons

As the United States Supreme Court gears up to hear oral argument on President Trump’s controversial travel ban, California is officially weighing in.

Today California Attorney General Xavier Becerra co-signed a brief calling upon the country’s highest court to reject an “unconstitutional, blatantly discriminatory” policy directed at the citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. The state’s top law enforcement officer joins seventeen attorneys general from across the country in signing on.

In the past, Becerra has argued that the travel ban would harm California’s school system, tourism sector and sizable refugee community.

Ever since President Trump issued the travel order as one of his first actions in the Oval Office, the administration has been locked in a legal battle. After the initial order was stymied by a series of court decisions, the White House introduced a narrower ban in March.

That revised policy bars entry from citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Unlike the first ban, the new one exempts current green-card holders, visa holders and refugees, along with those who have close family members residing in the United States.

Even so, both the State of Hawaii and the non-profit International Refugee Assistance Project have sued the administration, arguing the ban is motivated by an unconstitutional animus toward Muslims.

Last July, the Supreme Court gave the Trump administration permission to enact the ban while the various legal challenges against it make their way through the courts.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against the ban on Oct. 10.

A controversial bill that would have barred state and local law enforcement from helping the federal government prosecute marijuana offenses stalled in the California Legislature.

Unlike the “sanctuary state” immigration legislation to which it was often compared, the measure, AB 1578, failed to clear the state Senate before lawmakers adjourned for the year last week.

Medical marijuana for sale—photo via Darnk Depot

Medical marijuana for sale—photo via Darnk Depot

Authored by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) and co-sponsored by several Bay Area Democrats, the measure would have prohibited California police and sheriff departments from using their resources to assist a federal agency in investigating, detaining, reporting or arresting Californians for marijuana-related activity permitted under state law. Although opposed by various law enforcement associations, it is possible the bill could be revived next year, when California’s recreational marijuana market is scheduled to be fully operational. The proposal has passed the Assembly.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I illicit substance under federal law, along with drugs like heroin and LSD. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has frequently indicated that he would like the Department of Justice to resume cannabis prosecutions.

California lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Congress to reclassify cannabis to allow for more medicinal research. Introduced by state Sen. Jeff Stone, a Republican from Temecula, the bipartisan resolution also requested that Congress allow banks and other private companies to legally participate in marijuana-related commerce.

California medical marijuana users can breathe a sigh of reliefthe Trump administration can’t crack down on them for at least a few more months.

As part of the spending package that funds the federal government through early December, Congress renewed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which forbids the Department of Justice from interfering in state-sanctioned medical marijuana operations. The protection will expire December 8 unless re-approved by Congress.

Image by Skidmore/Flikr.

California cannabis advocates were spooked last week when a House committee temporarily endangered the amendment, which has protected the state’s medical marijuana market since 2014. Medical marijuana is still technically illegal under federal lawthe federal government classifies marijuana as a narcotic in the same legal category as heroin.

The Trump administration has repeatedly chafed at Rohrabacher-Blumenauer as an undue handcuff on executive power. Longtime marijuana foe Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Congressional leaders for the freedom to prosecute medical pot earlier this year.


At the Trump administration’s urging, Congress has rattled California’s medical marijuana industry by at least temporarily endangering a key protection against federal prosecution of medicinal pot.

The U.S. House Rules Committee yesterday blocked a vote on the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, a vital legal protection attached to the federal budget that prohibits the Justice Department from using any resources to interfere in state-sanctioned medical marijuana activities. California has allowed medical marijuana since the mid-1990’s.

The Trump administration’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions—a longtime opponent of marijuana who once likened the drug to heroin—urged Congress back in May to eliminate the amendment, which has been attached to federal spending bills since 2014.  As a result of the committee’s actions, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will not vote on the provision as part of a broader federal spending package. The amendment has received widespread bipartisan support in the past.

States like California don’t have to panic just yet, however. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment remains attached to the Senate budget bill. When both chambers send members to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the budget, they might opt to let it survive.

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