By Bridget Hill-Zayat, for Elevated Nation
So, what just happened?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded three memos drafted during President Obama‘s administration which established a federal hands-off approach to enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, the law that criminalized marijuana in 1970, in states with legal cannabis laws.
The policy and one of the memos was commonly referred to as the Cole Memo.
What was the Cole Memo?
A memo written by James Cole, a Deputy Attorney General, in 2013 to all US Attorneys. It stated in part, “In jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form… conduct in compliance with those laws and regulations is less likely to threaten the federal priorities…”
Basically it told the U.S. Attorneys their efforts would be better spent on other issues which summed up the Obama-era policy on marijuana.
What’s Changed as a Result of Today?
Technically, not much. The status of the law remains unchanged. Cannabis was always federally illegal, and there was always a conflict of state and federal law. The major difference is that previously U.S. Attorneys were free to focus resources to other, more pressing priorities. It still remains unclear whether U.S. Attorneys in states with legal markets are now incentivized or even interested in prosecuting federal crimes against state-sanctioned industry participants.
How is the Change in Policy Being Met by States with Legal Markets?
Replacing the Cole Memo is wildly unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans.
Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, today announced he plans to protect patients.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, said he would hold up President Trump’s DOJ nominations over this policy shift. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat in Oregon, called the move “outrageous.”
Blumenauer is one of the sponsors of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that prevents federal money being spent to interfere with the medical marijuana program of any state. The amendment, previously known as Rohrabacher-Farr, was renewed in December after 66 members of the House and Senate publicly urged their colleagues to continue medical marijuana protections.
Bridget Hill-Zayat, Esq. is an attorney in the East Coast cannabis industries. She has provided insight to elected officials working on suggested standards for cannabis regulations in PA. Bridget testified before Philadelphia City Council on how the city can increase energy efficiency to help foster the medical cannabis market thrive.