Sessions’ Call For Marijuana Enforcement Condemned By Cannabis Industry, Investors

Photo Credit: David Wolfe

In response to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana throughout America, leading cannabis industry organizations resoundingly condemned the announcement.

In a memo to federal prosecutors, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the Department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions.”

“Given the Department’s well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately,” Sessions said.

Representing well over 1,500 member-businesses nationwide, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) said the news was “disturbing, especially in light of the fact that 73% of voters oppose federal interference with state cannabis laws.”

“But, the rescinding of this memo does not necessarily mean that any major change in enforcement policy is on the horizon,” read a statement released by the organization led by its Executive Director, Aaron Smith.

”We therefore hope that Department of Justice officials, including U.S. Attorneys, will continue to uphold President Trump’s campaign promise to not interfere with state cannabis programs, which have been overwhelmingly successful in undercutting the criminal market.”

From 2013 until last week, the Department of Justice policy had been not to enforce federal marijuana laws against individuals or businesses in states that are complying with state medical or adult-use marijuana laws, provided that one of eight federal priorities is not implicated.

In August, a Department of Justice task force subcommittee on marijuana policy recommended that the policy described in the 2013 Cole memo be maintained going forward.

“This extremely misguided action will enable a federal crackdown on states’ rights with regard to marijuana policy,” said Marijuana Policy Project’s Interim Executive Director, Matthew Schweich.

“Attorney General Sessions has decided to use the power of the federal government to attack the ability of states to decide their own laws. A majority of Americans support legalization, and Sessions has simply decided to ignore their views. In the states where marijuana is legal, voters approved those legalization policies at the ballot box. This is a direct attack on the will of the people,” said Schweich.

A Quinnipiac poll conducted last year found that over 90% of Americans support the use of medical Cannabis – and it’s near impossible to get 90% of the Country to agree on anything. Lauren Rudick, a member of Hiller, PC firm representing Cannabis businesses, observed that, at present, “more than 60% of Americans live in a jurisdiction in which medical Cannabis is legal.”

Calling Session’s decision “a step backward for sensible, positive cannabis reform,” Nelson Guerrero, Co-Founder of the Cannabis Cultural Association (CCA), said rescinding the Cole Memorandum “threatens patients’ access to life-saving medication and thwarts restoration of communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition, while jeopardizing the careers of over 150,000 full-time cannabis industry employees and the collection of billions of dollars in valuable tax revenues.”

A New York based nonprofit, CCA helps marginalized and underrepresented communities engage in the legal cannabis industry, emphasizing criminal justice reform, access to medical cannabis, and adult use legalization.

“We believe that it is critical for our local, state, and particularly federal elected officials to take all actions necessary to protect the positive progress we’ve made toward federally legalizing cannabis, creating new well-paying jobs, saving patients’ lives, and working to restore the rights of people who have been harmed by prohibition,” said Guerrero.

Despite the Attorney General’s announcement, the CCA and our members and supporters will continue pushing for the end of cannabis prohibition, and its tragic contribution to mass incarceration in America.”

New Jersey’s leading business advocacy group for expanding access to medical cannabis and responsible adult-use of cannabis, New Jersey CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA), and its President, Scott Rudder, said “It is no surprise that a person who declared, ‘Good people don’t smoke marijuana’ and who also believes that cannabis is the same as heroin, would want to continue the Nixon-era’s failed War on Cannabis.”

“What is surprising is that this directly contradicts the desire and will of Congress and even President Trump’s own position, which is to leave cannabis laws up to individual states.”

“It is no coincidence that immediately after California, a liberal state, legalized cannabis for adult-use, AG Sessions decided to announce his change in policy,” said Rudder.

“Despite Sessions’ maniacal fixation on cannabis, this policy shift will backfire on him sooner rather than later. The support for a legal and regulated cannabis industry is supported by the majority of the American people and has significant bi-partisan support in Washington, DC.”

“The Governors and Attorneys General from Colorado, Washington, California and other states have already declared they will fight any attempt by Jeff Sessions that would violate their states’ rights as well as the will of the voters,” said Rudder, a former Republican state legislator, mayor, veteran and current government affairs executive.

“Any further action on the part of the Justice Department that impacts the rights of these states will result in an injunction that will eventually take this issue all the way to the Supreme Court, unless Congress acts first.”

Rudder forewarned that in either scenario, “the medical value – as well as the fallacy of many of the anti-arguments – of cannabis will be recognized and state will continue to implement cannabis programs as they see fit and with the support of the voters.”