Even though cannabis markets are springing up all across North America, there remain individuals who would rather march into the 21st century under the guidelines of prohibition and staunch social conservatism. At least in Canada, we can say that the federal government is a friend to cannabis, after all the initiative to legalize the substance came from that level of politics. But our neighbours to the south are having a much more difficult time getting their federal government in line with state values.
Primarily the Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been extremely vocal in his opinion about cannabis. He’s likened it to heroin use and feels as though it is a pure evil substance with the ability to tear down the fabric of our society. Normally we’d say that this is just some craziness that we can ignore and go about our own way doing the things that we love, including using cannabis. But it would appear as though Jeff Sessions’ threats are being given life.
Typically states are allowed to control their own jurisdiction, and medical and recreational cannabis has been one of those areas where the federal government has just decided to leave various parts of the country to their own devices to figure out this moral quandary. And after all, isn’t that what America is all about. Down with the tyranny of the federal level of government and the protection of state’s rights to govern their jurisdiction as they please.
As it happened, just days after California unveiled their new recreational cannabis market, which was big news, as it is the sixth largest economy in the world, the trump administration positioned itself to undo years of progress by rescinding the integral federal protections that allow states to establish their own cannabis legislation.
It would appear that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is looking to repeal the Cole Memo, which ensured that federal funds would not be used to enforce cannabis prohibition in states that have passed legalization. Further, it would give federal prosecutors in states with legal cannabis the ability to enforce U.S laws on cannabis as they see fit in their own districts. The Cole Memo was created under Obama with the aim of giving states leeway to legislate around cannabis as they saw fit.
Currently, there are thousands of cannabis entrepreneurs across the country who could be impacted by this decision. They are faced with a conundrum. Continue to follow their state’s laws while pursuing their business goals, or face federal repercussions. In state’s where business owners could legally grow, process, sell, and possess cannabis products, the Cole Memo offered a layer of protection from federal scrutiny.
According to legal experts, this move endangers state-legal businesses and violates the principles of federalism that have been central to the Republican Party for decades.
But you don’t need to worry if you are just the every cannabis consumer. The federal government probably won’t be breaking down your door anytime soon. However, the businesses that are operating in states like California, Nevada, and Colorado certainly have something to worry about.
The Cole Memo was introduced in 2013 by then Deputy Attorney General James Cole. It promised to let states evolve their cannabis industries without interference from the federal government, so long as the states ensured the products were not leaving the state or ending up in the hands of minors.
Particularly irksome is the fact that Trump promised to keep himself out of it, saying that the issue was a local one.
Hopefully, what will transpire is that the momentum the industry has accumulated will be too much for federal prosecutors to fight against, and legalization will prevail. But current events are enough to scare cannabis enthusiasts and entrepreneurs alike.
I try to keep things positive here, but this issue needed to be addressed, as it is very, very serious. All the work that has been done creating various cannabis markets across the United States could be for nothing. We certainly hope that is not the case, but we can only wait and see what this reversal means for the industry as a whole.