Ever since Jeff Sessions was announced as the United States Attorney General cannabis advocates have been on alert. Jeff Sessions has made a number of disparaging comments about cannabis over the years, as well as disparaging comments about people that use cannabis. Sessions even once supported legislation that would have called for the death penalty for people caught selling cannabis.
Almost a year has gone by since the Trump administration took office, which has left some in the cannabis industry feeling comfortable enough to complain on social media that worries about what Sessions might do are overblown. One industry member even told me to ‘give it a rest’ when I posted an article that discussed whether Jeff Sessions would crackdown on the cannabis industry.
It appears that the worries were well founded because today it was announced that Jeff Sessions will be rescinding the Cole memo, which the Obama administration issued as a means to provide some protections for states that have legalized cannabis. Per AP News:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding the Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, two people with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. Sessions will instead let federal prosecutors where pot is legal decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law, the people said.
The people familiar with the plan spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it before an announcement expected Thursday.
To be fair, this does not automatically mean that there will be a wave of raids in legal states. But also to be fair, it could be the beginning of greater enforcement of federal marijuana laws. Only time will tell. One thing is for sure – the federal government cannot bust everyone. There are simply too many people in the legal marijuana industry now and federal cannabis enforcement resources are limited.
However, it’s quite possible that some people could be targeted by the feds, and even if the feds are only playing whack-a-mole, whoever gets whacked is going to have their lives ruined. If that happens to even one person it will be one person too many. At the very least the rescinding of the Cole memo is likely to send a chilling effect over the industry and will probably scare away some of the investors that have been flooding the marijuana industry.
I think that ultimately this will prove to be a nothingburger for 99%+ of the industry, but it’s more important now than ever for industry members to be contacting their lawmakers in Congress and urging them to pass meaningful legislation that protects legal states. At the least Congress needs to continue to keep the Rohrabacher-Bluemenauer amendment in place, but legislation that goes even farther would obviously be preferred.