Three days after some of the biggest headlines in marijuana history – California legalizes cannabis! – Attorney General Jeff Sessions stole back the limelight with his move to rescind the Cole Memo. This 2013 Justice Department document outlined law enforcement priorities – and essentially gave the go-ahead to state legal marijuana businesses – in an age of ambiguous cannabis policy. (Here’s a great explanation of the Cole Memo from Leafly if you’re curious about the specifics.)
Sessions, no friend to marijuana, is already being sued because many believe the federal government’s cannabis laws are unconstitutional. And with public opinion around legalization at an all-time high (and approval of the president at an all-time low), you have to wonder why he’s going in this direction now.
Splimm talked with activists and industry insiders to get their read on the implications of this unsettling development.
Statement by Cannabis Cultural Association
Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole Memorandum represents “a step backward for sensible, positive cannabis reform,” states Nelson Guerrero, co-founder of the Cannabis Cultural Association (CCA). According to Guerrero and the CCA:
“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. 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. 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.”
Thoughts from Nick Kovacevich, CEO of Kush Bottles
The legal cannabis industry shows no signs of kowtowing to Sessions’ threats. In fact, Nick Kovacevich, whose company Kush Bottles, supplies compliant packaging for many state legal marijuana businesses, remains optimistic:
“Kush Bottles, and the clients we service, will continue to operate within the legal parameters set out by state and local regulations. We will support our clients by providing the materials and supplies they require to remain in operational compliance.
We believe that consumers will continue to have the right to purchase cannabis products within the existing regulated framework of States that have legalized medical or adult-use cannabis.
The Cole Memo gives guidance to federal prosecutors on how to treat cannabis enforcement in their local jurisdictions. We have seen many State Attorney Generals come out in support of the legal cannabis markets. In addition, public support continues to poll at an all time high.”
An unpopular decision to unite us all
There’s already pushback against the move from outside the cannabis community. Legislators in Vermont’s House of Representatives passed an adult-use legalization bill yesterday despite the news out of Washington. Leaders in legal states have spoken out against Sessions, and high ranking Congressional representatives have made it clear that they won’t stand for these failed Drug War tactics.
And while this may be the darkest timeline, we have no doubt that this will serve as yet another call to arms for those who value freedom and oppose mass incarceration over the criminalization of a nontoxic, beneficial plant.
How you can help
Congress can prevent federal interference in states that have legalized marijuana if they know they have the support of their constituents. Click this link to contact your reps: urge Congress to act now and block Sessions’ Justice Department from attacking states that have legalized marijuana.