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Feinstein Drops Opposition to Legalizing Marijuana

Says federal government should not interfere with California's marijuana market

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., dropped her opposition to legalized marijuana. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., dropped her opposition to legalized marijuana. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

California Sen. Dianne Feinsteindropped her longtime opposition to legalization of marijuana as her party moves in a pro-legalization direction.

The federal government should not interfere with California’s legal marijuana market, the California Democrat told McClatchy on Tuesday.

“Federal law enforcement agents should not arrest Californians who are adhering to California law,” Feinstein said.

The comments are a shift for Feinstein, who opposed California’s ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2016.

Earlier this year, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department would reverse Obama Administration-era policy about limiting prosecution of marijuana in states where it was legalized, Feinstein was more muted.

“It’s all unclear to me, and it’d be helpful to have some clarity so we know exactly what the situation is,” she told Roll Call at the time.

But meeting with constituents like those with children who have benefited from medical marijuana use changed her mind, Feinstein told McClatchy.

“My state has legalized marijuana for personal use, and as California continues to implement this law, we need to ensure we have strong safety rules to prevent impaired driving and youth access, similar to other public health issues like alcohol,” she said.

Feinstein explained her previous opposition to marijuana legalization was rooted in her time as a parole officer when she saw criminals “began with marijuana and went on to hard drugs.”

Feinstein faces a primary challenge from Democratic state Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon, who has accused her of being too moderate on many issues.

Feinstein’s comments come as more Democrats are moving toward supporting legalization.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker sponsored legislation last year that would not only legalize marijuana but would also allow people convicted of marijuana possession to have their records expunged.

So far, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have signed onto the legislation.

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