Lots of activity involving cannabis in the U.S. mail in recent weeks, but all of it’s been legal.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey lawmakers have beseeched federal authorities to rethink their stance towards marijuana, firing off letters to President Trump, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the DEA and the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
The missives, with rare exceptions, have been greeted with stony silence.
On Jan. 25, a bipartisan collection of more 50 congressmen urged Trump to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from rolling back protections of state marijuana programs. Earlier in January, Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, a Obama-era document that had been widely interpreted as telling U.S. Attorneys to not prosecute medical marijuana operations where they were protected by state laws.
All forms of marijuana are considered illegal by the federal government though 41 states and the District of Columbia have minted laws that permit some forms of the plant and its derivatives.
In the letter to Trump, spearheaded by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), 54 U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives asked the president to honor his campaign promises to restrain federal prosecution.
“As a candidate you stated: ‘I really believe we should leave it up to the states’ and that ‘it’s got to be a state decision.’ We trust that you still hold this belief, and we request that you urge the Attorney General to reinstate the Cole Memorandum,” the letter read.
Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), who has advocated for full federal legalization, signed the letter. A spokeswoman for Booker told the Inquirer and the Daily News on Friday that 11 days later, the White House has not responded.
In another letter, the 26 members of the Philadelphia Delegation to Harrisburg fired off a request to the local offices of the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s office looking for reassurances that federal agencies wouldn’t crack down on Pennsylvania patients or providers.
Spokespeople for the agencies told the Inquirer and Daily News they had received a letter from the delegation but declined further comment.
Pa. State Representative Maria P. Donatucci (D., Dela./Phila.) is chair of the delegation. She had hoped that the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District would pursue a policy similar to that outlined by U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of the state, David Freed, who has stated his office “had no intention of disrupting Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program or related financial transactions.”
The Pittsburgh-based U.S. Attorney for the Western District Scott Brady has stated said his office would “vigorously enforce federal law.”
Donatucci said she doesn’t want anything to derail the state’s medical marijuana program.
“It’s just ludicrous that we should be having this discussion and worrying about this,” she said. “But I really can’t imagine the federal government would do this to their citizens.”
Not every request has gone without a response.
A group of 31 national legislators on Jan. 17 asked the Department of the Treasury to not revoke guidance which has allowed legal all-cash marijuana businesses to use the mainstream banking infrastructure.
“Rescinding this guidance would inject uncertainly in the financial markets. Attempts to disrupt this market are dangerous and imprudent,” the letter said. “This guidance must remain intact because the risks involved in removing it are too great.”
A spokesman for the Treasury department responded in a letter to Booker and Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) that FinCEN was “reviewing the guidance” and “consulting with law enforcement.”