According to The Denver Post, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week in Washington, D.C. to discuss the new administration’s federal policies on marijuana – and how it plans to enforce them.
Citing Colorado’s regulatory scheme, Hickenlooper reportedly told the new AG that he believed his state had implemented a “good system,” and he noted certain measures the state has taken to combat concerns arising from legalization, such as increases in teen use and hospital visits.
After the meeting, Doug Friednash, the governor’s chief of staff, told The Denver Post that marijuana enforcement was not currently a priority for Sessions. Rather, the new AG’s focus remained on issues such as border security and control.
Friednash also stated that Sessions’ office was currently reviewing the Cole memo (named after Sessions’ predecessor, who issued it), which directs federal law enforcement officials in states that have legalized marijuana to abstain from prosecuting businesses and individuals in full compliance with their state’s laws. In his recap of Hickenlooper’s meeting with Sessions, Friednash stated that Sessions felt the Cole memo was “not too far from good policy.”
However, the conversation is no guarantee of security for those in the cannabis industry. Sessions is on the record as opposing all forms of marijuana use, including medical, and he stated publicly last year that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” In addition, President Trump’s stance on state-level cannabis legalization has remained both unclear and inconsistent. Finally, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments a few months ago only add to the confusion, as he indicated that the Federal Government would prioritize shutting down recreational marijuana operations over medical ones.
Hickenlooper’s meeting may ultimately prove to be an unreliable indicator of what’s next for the marijuana industry under Sessions, but the fact that Friednash described it as “amicable” provides some reassurances, especially for Coloradans in the industry. Regardless, though, the new administration does seem to be echoing one Obama-implemented policy, and it’s one that should not be taken lightly: for marijuana businesses, remaining compliant with state laws matters.
Charles Feldman is the cannabis practice group team leader for MJ Business Attorneys. For assistance or advice in managing the upcoming changes to federal marijuana policy, please contact him and MJBusinessAttorneys.com