Donald Trump’s war on the state of California – which overwhelmingly rejected him in 2016 and has become a liberal leader in the resistance – has intensified in recent days with the administration threatening California’s immigrants, world-famous coastal shores, taxpayers, and now weed smokers.
You read that right. In the span of three days, the Trump administration announced a policy that could allow US prosecutors to target legal marijuana operations and undermine California’s massive cannabis movement, proposed drilling off the California coast and pledged to increase immigration enforcement in the state — proposing to punish cities that get in the way. That came on the heels of his signing a tax bill that hit California harder than all other states.
The political warfare by Trump, who reportedly holds deep grudges and is obsessed with his electoral wins and losses, has the potential to cause havoc and destroy livelihoods in the state of California, the world’s sixth largest economy.
The move was seen as an open declaration of war. But California is ready to fight back.
“There should be no doubt that President Trump has officially declared war on California,” state Senate leader Kevin de León said on Thursday after the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, rescinded an Obama-era policy that opened the door for states to legalize marijuana, according to The Guardian.
De León, who is running for US Senate, said the move seemed political: “This is Jeff Sessions trying to impose his 1950s worldview on the people of California.”
“These are bullying tactics of the Trump administration,” said Barbara Lee, a congresswoman in northern California who has protested against the president since his inauguration. “We are not going to tolerate it. We are going to fight back.”
Lee, noting that marijuana laws disproportionately targeted black Americans and fueled mass incarceration, added: “Jeff Sessions really is a poster boy for institutional racism.”
Sessions’ threat of a cannabis crackdown dampened the festive mood in California, where the new law allows for retail shops and makes it legal for adults to possess and grow pot. The policy shift by Sessions – who once said he admired the KKK until he found out they smoked marijuana – would give US attorneys, who are appointed by the president, discretion to enforce federal marijuana prohibition laws.
However, legal and political experts see the California legalization as the point of no return for national reform, which may be motivating Sessions.
“They don’t have the ability to stop legalization, but they do have the ability to hurt a lot of people in the process,” Tamar Todd, legal affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which helped pass California’s law, told Politico.
Trump’s tax bill is also on track to hurt California residents due to a change in property tax law that is detrimental to states with high taxes and costs of living.
Keith Kolb, a 57-year-old San Francisco resident, said a Trump war on California weed would further unite angry voters.
“It has brought a lot of people together to fight against this administration,” said Kolb, adding that other states will support legalization once they see the tax revenues. “The rest of the country will follow and say we want some of that.”
But the most terrifying threat this week came on Tuesday when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) promised to “significantly increase” the number of deportation officers in the state in direct response to California’s new “sanctuary state” law, which is meant to limit local police cooperation with Ice and protect immigrants.
“California better hold on tight,” acting director Thomas Homan told Fox News, later suggesting that sanctuary jurisdictions are breaking federal laws. Some interpreted his comments as an outrageous threat to arrest and prosecute Democratic politicians.
“It’s just such a gross violation of the constitution,” said Saira Hussain, an attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
But California is not alone. Gov. Jerry Brown joined fellow Democratic governors Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington in a pledge “do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action.”