Jeff Sessions decision to rescind the Cole Memo has been blowing up in cannabis news. States with legal recreational markets have all came out and said that this won’t deter them and things will continue as they have been for years now. Mainly state lawmakers want to respect the wishes of the voters and resoundingly the voters have opted for legal cannabis. To undo the work that has been done would represent a major step backward for cannabis and states rights advocates.
The Attorney General seems to be on a mission to dismantle what has been built in terms of cannabis across the country. But the truth is that states with legal cannabis are now dependent on the tax revenue it generates. It’s built into their budgets and their plans for building infrastructure or investing in education is dependent on income created by legal cannabis.
But all hope is not lost. There has been significant resistance to Jeff Sessions general attitude towards cannabis. After all, this is a man who compared cannabis use to heroin. He’s just a giant step behind most of society on this issue.
So when his decision came out, lawmakers across the country armed up with legal measures and movements sure to shoot down the federal government’s initiative.
One such person was Californian Congresswoman Rep Barbara Lee (D-13th District). She has filed some powerful legislation aimed at protecting America’s burgeoning cannabis industry. Crafted as the Restraining Excessive Federal Enforcement and Regulations of Cannabis Act of 2018, or HR 4779, it would prohibit the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions from wasting taxpayer dollars on the needless enforcement of federal cannabis laws.
Known as the REFER Act of 2018 this protective piece of legislation would prohibit the DOJ from utilizing federal funding to “detain, prosecute, sentence, or initiative civil proceedings against an individual, business or property, that is involved in the cultivation, distribution, possession, dispensation, or use of cannabis,” given that those activities are in compliance with state law and local regulations.
The legislation was cosponsored by Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-3rd District), Nevada Rep. Dina Titus (D-1st District), and Colorado Congressman Jared Polis (D-2nd District). There was also bipartisan support from Don Young, an Alaskan representative.
Barbara Lee has said, “I’m proud to introduce the REFER Act, which would prevent the Attorney General and others in the Trump Administration from stifling the budding cannabis industry.” She also received assistance from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
The bill would have three primary functions. The first of which is to prohibit the DOJ from utilizing taxpayer money to prevent a State or unit of local government from implementing or maintaining its state laws or regulations that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of cannabis.
Second, it prevents taxpayer funds from being utilized to detain, prosecute, sentence, or initiate civil proceedings against an individual business or property, that is involved in the cultivation, distribution, possession, dispensation, or use of cannabis, in accordance with the law or regulation of the State or unit of local government in which the individual is located.
Third, no taxpayers funds shall be used to penalize a financial institution solely because the institution provides financial services to an entity that is manufacturer, producer, or a person that participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling cannabis or cannabis products.
So to summarize, it’s a huge “keep away” notice to the federal government. If it’s implemented it would secure safety for the cannabis industry and allow things to go on as they have been across the country since 2013.
The great thing about all of this is that generally speaking, cannabis is a bipartisan issue, and Republicans and Democrats support it in states where it is presently legal. Sure they are exceptions, but over the past few years, America’s elected officials from both sides of the aisle have helped introduce several pieces of meaningful legislation to address the heady topics of cannabis research, recreational cannabis sales, and incarceration in a constructive way.
So keep your eyes peeled on this situation, as it will play out quickly in the next couple of weeks. In the end, it might appear as though Jeff Sessions won’t get his way, having pulled the equivalent of a litigious temper tantrum about cannabis.