Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent shockwaves through states that have legalized recreational marijuana last Thursday when he rescinded the Department of Justice directive that protected those states from federal prosecution. But the industry wasn't dumbstruck for long. Key members have spoken out against Sessions, offering their take on the controversial move and what to expect next.
Here's what they have to say.
This was not unexpected
Bradley Blommer, a litigation and real-estate attorney for the Oregon-based cannabis law firm Green Light Law Group, says that Sessions' move was not unexpected. Nor is the strong resistance to the threat of a nationwide crackdown, which could blow up in the attorney general's face.
“While today’s announcement by Jeff Sessions is both irrational and against the wishes of a majority of the American people, it is also not entirely unexpected," Blommer wrote in a statement for Civilized. "It is important to note that while the Attorney General has replaced the Cole Memorandum with the prosecutorial discretion of individual U.S Attorneys in states where marijuana has been legalized by the will of the people in those states, at least one Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee (Colorado Senator Cory Gardner) has already publicly stated that he intends to hold up confirmation of President Trump’s nominees for those Justice Department posts in light of Thursday’s announcement from the Justice Department.
"For now, we all need to understand that this does not signal the end of the medical or legal cannabis industry in Oregon and beyond, and that licensed cannabis businesses continue to be protected under state laws and to some extent, the U.S. Constitution.”
A crackdown on cannabis isn't underway, and may never happen
Perry N. Salzhauer, a corporate and environmental attorney for Green Light Law Group, stresses that we should remain calm while waiting to see what Sessions does next. Rescinding the Cole Memo doesn't necessarily mean a crackdown is imminent. Right now, the issue rests with individual U.S. Attorneys, who are conscious of the fact that their political careers could suffer tremendously if they pursue an unpopular crackdown on marijuana.
“While we can expect a slight chill in investment into marijuana businesses in the short term, we really need to wait and see whether Thursday’s rescission will be followed up with any actual new policy directives from Mr. Sessions' office to the individual US Attorneys, and how those, if any are issued, are implemented before we really understand the full scope of today’s announcement," Salzhauer wrote in a statement for Civilized.
"Keep in mind that while the memo from the AG rescinds the 2013 Cole Memo, it does not direct the Criminal Division at the main U.S. Justice Department and DEA Headquarters to begin a new campaign to prosecute legal state marijuana businesses. The reality today is that each state needs to look to its own U.S. Attorney for guidance, and given that most U.S. Attorneys have political ambitions, many may be reluctant to buck public opinion, which is overwhelmingly in favor of legalized and regulated marijuana. We will all have to wait and see the approach to be taken by our own U.S. Attorney, local Oregonian Billy Williams, over the coming weeks.”
"Call your congresspeople and be heard"
If you're worried about the future of cannabis legalization in your state, or you want federal lawmakers to put an end to marijuana prohibition once and for all, there's something you can do about it, says Jesse Peters — CEO of the Oregon-based cannabis cultivator Eco Firma Farms.
“Today we must determine the cannabis reform positions held by our local federal prosecutors," Peters wrote in a statement for Civilized. "Cannabis has higher approval ratings than apple pie and our country watches with heavy hearts as it’s often disregarded by those positioned to represent the will of the people," Peters wrote in a statement for Civilized. "This needs to be addressed: Call your representatives, call your congresspeople, and be heard. It is our duty and our right to speak out—a privilege we are afforded by the sacrifices of many.”
"This is a speed-bump....We will persevere"
Jesse Peters of Eco Firma Farms added that Sessions' move might seem scary, but it's really just a speed bump on the road to progress.
“This is a speed bump in the industry," Peters wrote. "There is no coincidence that this announcement came three days after California implemented sales to adults 21 and over. It is an attempt by the current administration to slow the flow of cash from investors into a state that can make an unstoppable dent in full legalization. It is a tough day for those of us who have worked so hard to get here, but nothing we are not used to. We will persevere.
“After a long day of phone calls and emails it’s clear that Oregon’s representatives, from attorney Billy Williams to Gov. Kate Brown, stand strong in heavy support of Oregon’s cannabis farmers. For us, it’s business as usual. If anything, this strengthens our resolve for the end goal — to show the war on drugs is a failure, and legal cannabis is a thriving industry that is a far healthier choice to alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals, across the board. It’s opportunities like this that will help push federal legalization of cannabis to the front of the line, as we’ve seen today with bipartisan support in opposition of Jeff Sessions’ decision—the last gasps of a dying ideology. Eco Firma will be here tomorrow with the lights on and the employees’ working, just like every other cannabis farm we know here in Oregon.”
U.S. Attorneys have a tough decision ahead
It's not a good day to be a U.S. Attorney, according to Mason Walker, CEO of the Oregon-based CBD producer East Fork Cultivars, who says federal law enforcers will have to make a tough decision to back the will of the people or the special interests of politicians like Sessions.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions' move to rescind the Cole Memo is an unfortunate blow to the progress the cannabis industry has made towards ending the destructive and demeaning War on Drugs," Walker wrote in a statement for Civilized. "The U.S. is ready for legal, regulated cannabis, and this move serves to undermine the will of the people. Our fate now lies in part in the hands of U.S. Attorneys, who have an important choice to make: turn back the clock and embolden the illegal market; or look forward, and protect health and human rights by providing safe access for adults.”
The Trump administration's legacy is on the line
We don't know what step Sessions plans to take next regarding marijuana, but we do know that it will impact the progress of the legalization movement as well as the legacy of the Trump administration, according to Sabrena Peterson — Director of Sales and Marketing for the Oregon-based vaporizer producer RĒL Vape.
“Setting aside the will of the voters who approved medical and recreational use throughout the country and the billions of dollars that states stand to collect in tax revenues from the cannabis industry, rescinding Cole guidance runs contrary to this administration's agenda of job creation, smaller government, states’ rights and deregulation,” Peterson wrote in a statement for Civilized.