15 Minutes with Joe Devlin


15 Minutes with Joe Devlin

Day job: Chief of cannabis policy and enforcement for the city of Sacramento
Age: 40

You’ve racked up a lot of monikers: pot boss, cannabis czar, weed wonk. Do you have a favorite?
Captain Cannabis was a funny one. Also doobie director. My old rugby coach from college stopped by my office recently and dropped off this black beanie that had Weed Police embroidered on the front of it.

What is your job, in a nutshell?
What I’ve been tasked with is helping to transition cannabis into a legal framework in a manner that reflects the values of our city.

What will change in Sacramento on Jan. 1 when recreational marijuana becomes legal for those 21 and older?
As to the impacts, I’ll be the first to admit there will be some unknowns, but I don’t believe much different is going to happen. Cannabis is already pretty accessible right now. There aren’t a lot of hoops you have to jump through to get a medical card. The biggest change is going to be on the industry side and the regulations that will apply to them, particularly around edibles. We will be seeing a swift transition toward increased professionalism in the cannabis industry.

Has the legal sale of cannabis changed the character of Sacramento, in your opinion?
No. My hope is that whatever the cannabis industry looks like in Sacramento reflects the values and the culture of the people in Sacramento. When it comes to shaping cannabis policy, we have truly been leaders in the state. And that is not an insignificant thing. The policies that we are adopting are shaping the decisions of cities up and down the state of California. The decisions that we make in California will have ramifications across the country. Here in Sacramento, we are at the forefront of those discussions.

As far as Sacramento turning into a pot town, I don’t see that. I’m trying to build a regulatory infrastructure to keep cannabis safe for consumption, to make sure it gets into the hands only of those who are old enough and qualified to have it for a cannabis market and industry that is already here.

This is an incredibly dynamic subject that touches so many different sectors of the economy and of society. It’s going to drive a lot of conversations between friends and family. I think that the approach that the City Council has provided is one of pragmatic realism. I know there are a lot of unknowns still about this. Some of these unknowns come with the cost of leadership. This is a giant social experiment that ultimately we’re all going to have to go through together.

How big a problem are illegal cultivation operations?
Illegal residential cultivation is a challenge in Sacramento. We have around 800 of these inside the city. They are sophisticated. However, they are done with electrical wiring that certainly doesn’t have a permit and a majority of the time isn’t done up to code. They are dangerous and they are also sources of crimes of opportunity. They just don’t belong in residential neighborhoods.

Are you a parent? What do you tell your kids about drug use?
My kids are 3 and 8 at the moment, so they’re pretty young. I think we’re going to be honest with them. There are consequences and health risks associated with cannabis just as there are for alcohol. My hope is to provide them with all of the information they need to make good decisions. Hopefully, when they are teenagers, those lines of communication will still be wide open between us.