Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Cole Memo, a policy that allowed for the legal cannabis industry to flourish across the country, according to AP reports.
The Obama-era Cole Memo allowed states to make decisions on legal cannabis, without federal intervention or prosecution of cannabis businesses. Sessions’ new stance allows federal prosecutors to enforce federal law prohibiting growing, sales and distribution of cannabis.
Cannabis industry leaders, who long anticipated prohibitive action from Sessions, are prepared for what’s ahead.
Marco Hegyi, CEO of Growlife Inc, a nationally recognized cultivation brand, said he does not anticipate an impact on GrowLife’s business. “The legal rights granted by the California government to its citizens is a political issue that is beyond our control, however, we do not see it impacting GrowLife’s business,” he said. “GrowLife sells ‘picks and shovels’ to cultivators and does not sell the cannabis plant. Therefore it does not see a reason to have any more legal exposure than the electric company, water utilities or facilities provider in providing its supplies to its customers.”
Concerns as to whether medical cannabis patients and consumers will be vulnerable to federal prosecution remain.
“This is my personal concern,” Hegyi said. “We are dealing with serious health matters where patients may be directly affected. The potential of turning ailing US citizens into criminals is reprehensible. Our veterans suffering from PTSD have found legal relief with Cannabis as have cancer patients and children with radical epilepsy.”
I am a businessman not an activist but at some time we must take a stance and not permit bureaucracy to threaten lives and livelihoods. This is not a money issue but one of human rights,” Hegyi said.
Investor confidence in the cannabis industry will be affected, said Avis Bulbulyan, CEO of SIVA Enterprises. “By far, the biggest impact and hit will be to investor confidence. This will probably slow down some of the money that’s been rolling in, at least for the immediate future, but understanding how far the industry has come, and understanding that it’s highly unlikely the industry is going to be shut down, this could be a great opportunity for investors to really get more bang for their buck. It’s going to come down to risk tolerance levels.”
More cannabis industry leaders react:
MARCO HEGYI, CEO of Growlife Inc:
“GrowLife is a public company that sells supplies and equipment for indoor cultivation where its customers range from food to legal Cannabis farmers. We intend to stand by our customers, the US States and their governors who have used the election process to put a compliant process that helps and protects its citizens. As the Cannabis industry fully supports these compliance laws, I expect that the White House Administration will also learn to support these laws and the industry, which is diminishing the Black Market for Cannabis and its predatory actions.”
JANE WEST, CEO of Jane West:
“The Department of Justice does not speak for the majority Americans who support legalization and the 29 states where medical or adult-use cannabis is now legal. By rescinding the Cole memo, the old guard is signaling just how terrified they are of this viable and vibrant new industry. This decision does not respect the will of the people, and any money spent prosecuting compliant, state-legal cannabis businesses is money we’re not spending to fight the opiate epidemic. We must continue to support the small businesses, organizations, and industry leaders who are fighting the war on drugs, creating jobs, and generating tax revenue.”
AVIS BULBULYAN, CEO of SIVA Enterprises:
“Earlier last year, there was talk that MJ was going to be held as a bargaining chip against states for negotiation on immigration issues. This could very well be intended as a distraction for the administration to keep people focused on this while a different agenda item is pushed along. Reality is that cannabis has tremendous support across the country regardless of party affiliation, and has a higher approval rating than the administration, really any prior administration and it’s probably going to take a whole lot more than nixing the Cole memo to shut it down.”
GUILLERMO BRAVO, CEO of Foottraffik:
“This is unfortunate for the cannabis industry, especially with the biggest cannabis market California going recreational this week. This is going to reduce investment money, interest, and cut back spending within the cannabis industry as well. The clear goal of the administration is to slow down the progress of the cannabis industry in any form, and this is a clear shot at California, Colorado, Washington, and the entire industry in general.”
“For Jeff Sessions and the current administration, the War on Drugs is not over, but we’re also not done fighting to end it. This policy change does not mean a wholesale dismantling of the regulated markets that now exist in over half of US states. Now more than ever, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to support our colleagues and the organizations that are fighting for a legitimate, regulated marijuana industry and safe, legal access to cannabis medicine.”
LAURA BIANCHI, Director of Cannabis, Business/Corporate Transactions and Estate Planning Departments, Rose Law Group:
“We have always known Jeff Sessions is anti-marijuana and while it is certainly alarming to see him take this position, I see it as having little to no impact at this stage. The 2013 Cole memo provided guidance; however, as I have consistently reminded clients, it is not law, it is not an order and it is not precedent. So while certainly something to keep an eye on, I do not think this is cause for panic. With 29 states and Washington DC having implemented some form of a medical marijuana program, to undo this industry would be like closing Pandora’s Box once it’s been opened. It would be a Herculean effort that would undermine another Republican cornerstone, which is the importance of states’ rights. I advise clients continue to focus on operating their businesses in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations and try to ignore the chaotic, political, and shock-motivated headlines which have unfortunately become the norm.”
JOSE BELEN, Founder and CEO of Mission Zero:
“Jeff Session’s decision to rescind the Cole memo is abhorrent and will cause massive negative ramifications to veteran community. I say this as a proud combat veteran. Prior to becoming a medical cannabis patient, my 13-year battle with PTSD cost me my job, my home, my financial stability, and very nearly my life. That is why I am one of the six individuals suing the federal government to remove marijuana from its list of Schedule I drugs. My fear is that the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of veterans like myself will now have to live in fear of federal reprisal. As veterans we do not ask for much from our government. In this case we are simply asking for care from our country that we proudly would have died for.”
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Sessions came into office with the promise of cracking down on cannabis – including medical marijuana – at the federal level.
“The marijuana business has since become a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that helps fund some government programs. Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and California’s sales alone are projected to bring in $1 billion annually in tax revenue within several years,” AP reports.
The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, a group of prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials, declined to create new policy recommendations to advance the attorney general’s aggressively anti-marijuana views in 2016. The group’s report largely reiterated the Justice Department’s standing policy on marijuana.
California and Oregon submitted reports on the results of legal cannabis in their states to Sessions’ task force in 2017. Both reported positive effects on public safety and local economies.
In December, Sessions cited the American Medical Association policy when responding to a Department of Justice intern question about the risks of legal cannabis.
Cashinbis wrote the AMA and received their most up-to-date policies on cannabis. A document from the American Medical Association House of Delegates shows that these policies have changed slightly since September 2016, when the organization resolved to scratch that the “sale of cannabis should not be legalized.”