Jeff Sessions’ Cannabis Confusion
Jeff Sessions’ recent move to rescind the 2013 Cole Memo has unleashed a torrent of concerns and uncertainty about the possibility of prosecution following a cannabis crackdown. So we thought we’d gather the information from across the globe, the internet, and news outlets to provide all the insights, opinions, facts and fallacies in one convenient location.
So here it is:
Will Sessions’ Announcement Impact the Marijuana Market?
Marijuana stocks took a temporary dip following the Session’s announcement, most likely due to a lack of confidence more than any concrete evidence that a crackdown would ensue. Industry experts believe that federal officials will focus on prosecuting only businesses that are not compliant with state laws, for example shipping to addresses outside state boundaries. And a quick rebound in the market demonstrated the general opinion is that business will continue as normal.
What Does this Mean for Cannabis Business?
Head of the cannabis practice at the Rose Law Group in Scottsdale, Arizona, Laura Bianchi stated “While it is certainly alarming to see him (Sessions) take this position, I see it as having little to no impact at this stage.” And it certainly had little impact on California’s industry – the largest marijuana market in the world – following legalization of recreational marijuana, California continues to reap the rewards of cannabis commerce.
Bianchi went on to state that trying to roll back the marijuana industry at this stage would be like trying to close Pandora’s box. Too many people use marijuana for various ailments and illnesses and the research that has proven the efficacy of medical marijuana is too conclusive to stop progress.
When interviewed by CNN, Ron Paul stated that he believes Sessions should step down and that the war on drugs is a war on democracy and liberty.
And in Alaska, the announcement caused former Marijuana Control Board Chairman Peter Mlynarik to resign from his position. His decision was based on the fact that a legal crackdown removes the ability to properly regulate cannabis and as he stated in an interview with Channel 2, “Nobody really knows what’s going to happen… I didn’t really feel like there was much legal footing, especially as commercial marijuana is concerned. So that concerned me, and it seemed like a good time to leave.” Mlynarik is also the police chief of Soldotna, Alaska.
Los Angeles cannabis attorney, Kellsi Booth has this advice for the marijuana industry and industry supporters, “Businesses should continue to comply with all state laws and regulations, and establish positive relationships with the communities they serve to show that cannabis can be a benefit rather than a detriment. Finally, everyone who believes that marijuana should be legalized should push their federal lawmakers for marijuana law reform.”
Native nations are also impacted by the rescinding of Obama-era policies. In 2014, the a memo from the Department of Justice stated that Native Nations tribes could participate in the cannabis industry as long as they followed the guidelines outlined in the Cole Memo. But now that the Cole Memo no longer stands, no-one seems to know exactly where they stand.
Banks certainly don’t seemed to be phased by this latest upsurge from the ‘war on drugs’ community. The number of banks willing to work with the marijuana industry has slowly increased by roughly 18% since the beginning of 2017.
Unlike Alaska, where the industry is still relatively small, government officials in California and elsewhere support cannabis businesses and have stated they will resist the federal government, should federal prosecutors decide to prosecute any business that is complying with state laws.
However, the general consensus is that Session’s bark is worse than his bite, and it could backfire. California and other states could use their new found wealth to pursue a legal battle with the federal government that could overturn the authority of the federal government to enforce regulation of legal cannabis businesses.
And, a federal court in San Francisco ruled that the Department of Justice can’t spend money to prosecute people who obey their state’s medical marijuana laws.
What Can Federal Prosecutors Do to Cannabis Businesses?
Adam Fine, managing partner of the cannabis-focused law firm Vicente Sederberg, stated that while federal officials could send cease-and-desist letters to marijuana business owners, and authorize U.S. government seizures of property or pursue federal forfeiture cases, they are unlikely to get much help from local law-enforcement authorities in states where marijuana is legal. And he believes that federal prosecutors wont have the financial resources to take action.
And many prominent Republicans from states where legalization has been in place have denounced Session’s move. They have seen how the industry has generated much-needed medicine and tax revenue and helped decrease opioid addiction.
Indeed, many Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree that Sessions decision to rescind the 2013 Cole Memo does not comply with the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
This move from Session’s flies in the face of democracy; the votes are in and the numbers don’t lie.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis , eight states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, and a report from the Pew Research Center showed that 70 percent of millennials believe marijuana should be legal.
So is Jeff Sessions just playing to his core supporters to secure their loyalty and his own position in politics?
And does anyone agree with Jeff Session’s statement that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Someone please – give that man a gummy!
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