As you know, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended an Obama-era federal policy that provided legal shelter for marijuana sales in states that have allowed regulated cannabis, potentially placing at risk thousands of businesses operating legally under state laws.
The Justice Department move was met with bipartisan backlash from lawmakers throughout the nation.
Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to not to interfere with state marijuana laws, has been uncharacteristically silent on the Attorney General’s new policy.
"It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States,” Sessions said in a statement, which added that the Obama-era policy that directed federal prosecutors not to target state marijuana businesses “undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission."
The Sky is Not Falling
However, while it makes good headlines, this does not mean the end of the legal cannabis industry in America. In fact, some have said that this may force the issue in front of congress.
Virtually no one believes that cannabis is properly classified: currently as a Schedule 1 drug in the same category as LSD and Heroin, while cocaine is listed as a less dangerous schedule 2 narcotic. Sessions’ personal obsession with marijuana is out of touch with reality and with the will of the American people.
If we want lasting real change, that means the law has to change. And that’s the end game. There has to be a change in the Controlled Substance Act that removes marijuana from the schedule of prohibited substances.
Today, the majority of Americans reside in a state where the medical use of cannabis is legal, and one in five Americans lives in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute.
It is time for congressional representatives in these districts to step up and defend the rights of their constituents – many of whom rely on these policies for their health and welfare, and who have repeatedly demanded federal legislators to once and for all amend federal law in a manner that reflects cannabis’ rapidly changing legal and cultural status.
Despite this last gasp attempt by the Justice Department to revert to the failed policies of the past, marijuana is here to stay and ought to be regulated and controlled accordingly.
So, pick up the phone and call your senators and congressmen. Do it now.
In the meantime, it should be comforting to know that many US Attorneys have already stated that their position on cannabis has not changed.
Notably, Annette L. Hayes, United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, issued a statement that said their office is focused on cases involving organized crime, violent and gun threats, and financial crimes related to marijuana.
Similar statements were made by U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer in Colorado, and Jessie K. Liu of the District of Columbia.
However, not all U.S. Attorneys have a like-minded outlook. McGregor Scott, the new U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, prosecuted a number of people in California’s medical marijuana industry during the Bush administration. And Southern District of California U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman ominously said Sessions’ memo outlining the changes “returns trust and local control to federal prosecutors.” Furthermore, the U.S. attorney in Northern California suddenly announced his intention to leave his position, which allows Sessions to appoint an interim U.S. attorney. No doubt he will appoint someone that shares his political viewpoints.
The picture is even more complicated in many areas because Trump has not yet nominated U.S. attorneys in many districts. So far, 46 U.S. attorneys have been nominated and confirmed, meaning that about half the offices nationwide are led by interim appointees.
One leading Republican senator threatened that confirmation of future nominees will be at risk if Sessions persists in his anti-marijuana effort.
“What happened today was a trampling of Colorado’s rights, its voters,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said in a Senate floor speech in which he angrily accused Sessions of going back on commitments to respect the will of voters in states that have chosen to legalize.
“I will be putting today a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice until Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment he made to me,” declared Gardner, who is a member of the Senate’s Republican leadership.
That being said, it would be hard for any Justice Department crackdown in the short-term future. A provision called the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment protects medical-marijuana programs in states from federal interference. But that provision expires January 19, unless the new federal spending bill renews it. It’s not clear whether it will be included in the next congressional spending bill. Moreover, the amendment does not apply to the recreational market.
For now, it’s business as usual for everyone in the legal cannabis industry, and the most likely practical consequence of this decision is to drive more voters to the polls this November.
Encourage our Senator’s support of the Leahy amendment to the appropriations bill. This amendment protects medical cannabis businesses and patients in states where it’s legal.
In California, please call or email one of our two Senators:
331 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Harris, Kamala D.
112 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
I’m calling today to ask for your Senator’s support of the Leahy amendment to the appropriations bill. This amendment protects medical cannabis businesses and patients in states where it’s legal. It does this by barring the Department of Justice from using its funds to interfere with state legal medical cannabis programs.
46 states have legalized some form of cannabis. Additionally, over 90% of individuals believe medical cannabis should be legalized and 73% do not support federal law enforcement actions that undermine state marijuana laws.
The cannabis industry supports tens of thousands of jobs, tens of millions in tax revenue, and billions in economic activity in the United States.
Thanks for taking my call, I appreciate you listening to my concerns.
Thanks for reading, and remember to make those calls.
Kary and the Hippo Team