This weekend, we're going to find out how the Trump Administration really feels about legalization. The High Times Cannabis Cup is set to kick off Friday in Las Vegas - unless organizers bow down to pressure from the feds, who want to shut down the cannabis trade show that typically features marijuana paraphernalia and vendors selling cannabis products.
Last month, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden sent a letter to the Moapa Paiute Tribe, who will host the event on their tribal land. The letter reminded them that possession, transportation and distribution of cannabis is still illegal under federal law. That means the Cannabis Cup - which has been held in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana since 2012 - is illegal and participants could face criminal prosecution, even though Nevada legalized recreational marijuana last November.
In the letter, Bogden informed the tribe that the Obama Administration's cannabis memos, which have prevented the Department of Justice from interfering with state-legalized marijuana industries, would not protect the Cannabis Cup. A copy of the letter has since been published by The Reno Gazette-Journal.
"I am informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event referred to as the 2017 High Times Cannabis Cup because it is under the impression that the so-called 'Cole Memorandum' and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it," Bogden wrote. "Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department's position on this issue."
Jenny Kane of RGJ thinks that this might be the opening shot in the Trump Administration's war with the state-legalized cannabis industries.
"If federal officials were to intervene, it would be one of the first indicators that the White House is indeed going to crack down on marijuana crimes in states where recreational marijuana is legal," Kane wrote. "Thus far, only spotty, vague statements have been released so far, but no clear plan of action has been revealed by the new administration."
Those "spotty, vague statements" include a threat from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who told reporters last week that the Trump Administration would crack down on recreational marijuana. Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the press that "states can pass whatever laws they choose," but then he added that it is still "a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not."
So the fate of the Cannabis Cup might clarify the new administration's position on cannabis.
Vendors Warned to Comply with the Law
If DEA agents do show up to the Cannabis Cup this weekend, they might not find anyone to bust. In response to U.S. Attorney Bogden's letter, the event's organizers contacted vendors and advised them to abide by local, state and federal laws concerning cannabis and cannabis products.
"[V]endors, guests, performers and attendees are advised to comply with all local, state, and federal laws regarding the use and distribution of cannabis and cannabis related products," the letter from High Times reads. "In order for the cannabis industry to continue to earn legitimacy and social acceptance, we understand that rules and laws need to be abided."
So the Cannabis Cup might not have any cannabis, which opponents of marijuana legalization like Attorney General Sessions might consider a big win for prohibition.