Interesting takes from executives in the industry
“The Cole Memo is a ‘feel-good’ U.S. Dept of Justice guidance that does not actually restrain local U.S. A.G.s from enforcement but sets department priorities with regard to marijuana, e.g., sales to minors or diversion of product out of state. The Rohrbacher-Blumenauer budget amendment (which prohibits the use of federal funds for D.O.J. enforcement of federal marijuana laws against state-sanctioned medical marijuana licensees) is still likely to be renewed at the end of January. This development will undoubtedly have an at least temporary chilling effect, particularly on new investment and banking. However, it is also likely to drive marijuana-related businesses to higher levels of accountability and compliance, making their businesses less susceptible to targeted enforcement and overall more sustainable in the long run and this would be a positive outcome.”
Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML:
“The rollback of this policy towards state legalized marijuana will only create chaos and confusion for an industry that is currently responsible for creating over 150,000 American jobs and generating countless millions in state tax revenue. This instability will only push consumer dollars away from these state-sanctioned businesses and back into the hands of criminal elements. With over 60% of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, supporting marijuana legalization, this is not just bad policy, but awful politics and the Trump Administration should brace itself for the public backlash it will no doubt generate.”
“As much as the public has made it clear what their feelings on cannabis are, AG Sessions and this administration have stayed stern on their position on the cannabis industry and are finally showing signs of an aggressive movement towards dismantling it. If the cannabis industry wants to stay legitimate in the eyes of the state governments standing up for them, it’s imperative that we combat this stigmatized federal prohibition with strong data, secure networks, and the confidence that our businesses are run with the due diligence we claim. Obviously, in the position I’m in, I look at a secure industry with the utmost importance, however if this administration can be potentially liable for collusion, hacking, and a litany of other problems, what makes our community think they wouldn’t take a similar approach to acquiring data on the innermost parts of the cannabis economy? In times like this, with uncertain terrain ahead, my biggest concern for our industry is keeping the companies within it, that makes it thrive so well, secure compliant and transparent so they can never have the rug swept out from beneath them.”
Shanel Lindsay, Founder, and President of Ardent:
“We will not be deterred by the actions of well-connected, misinformed politicians. The majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle support legalization and more research continues to show the effectiveness of cannabis as a viable medicine. Rescinding a memo doesn’t wipe out public opinion, nor does it reverse scientific advancements.”
Chuck Siegel, President, and CEO of BloomBoss:
“Reasonable minds can disagree on the wisdom of recreational marijuana laws, but it’s inarguable that the timing of this announcement is outrageous, waiting for legitimate businesspeople to make significant investments in what they thought was lawful commerce, and then dropping the curtain once all the money is spent and before any of the revenues come in.
It’s clear that, for all its talk about bringing business back, this administration is determined to extinguish the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry, and the influx of tax revenues it brings, as well as the ‘pursuit of happiness’ consumers may enjoy.”
“Jeff Sessions continues to astound the cannabis industry and the country with his ignorance to scientific fact. It’s a shame that this decision will likely lead to the increased suffering of medical cannabis patients that could lose access to their medicine and significant wastes of federal funds. I expect any actions he and the Justice Department take against the industry will be met with significant pushback from states that are benefiting greatly from an economic and quality of life standpoint. The cannabis industry will continue on regardless of this decision, and in the long run, this should only be a roadblock.”
“This is another expected bump in the road. It is almost as if the rally in publicly traded stocks in the legal cannabis sector was too much for the AG to bear. When we look back on this day in years to come, one of the big factors will be separating the dedicated from the dilettantes of who is building this industry. This is an opportunity. Additionally, we expect the Attorney General to announce new guidance to replace the Cole memo in the near future.”
“Jeff Sessions continues to act contrary to the desires of the American people. The actions to rescind the Cole Memo are just further evidence of an administration that is not of the people. It is my belief that state leaders on both sides of the aisle will work aggressively to protect state’s rights, and that America’s fastest growing industry (Cannabis) will continue to thrive in spite of this nonsensical action.”
“More than half of the US has legalized the use of cannabis, either medically or recreationally, and will most likely not go the other way. We’ve made a concerted effort to provide solutions that do not touch the cannabis plant and will continue to provide our payment solutions to both the legal cannabis industry and others.”
“Today’s reported decision by the Justice Department to reverse Obama era guidelines set in place by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 could potentially lead to increased violent crime in states that have legalized the plant for medicinal and adult use. Banking has been a major issue within the industry. This reversal will throw further doubt into the financial sector, potentially leading to an increase in violent crime as cash transactions will once again be the norm. Although the decision is not surprising, it should be viewed as a strong indicator of how this administration may deal with states’ rights on a number of issues. That said, the Attorney General has previously stated that he believes Congress needs to address the scheduling of cannabis in relation to the Controlled Substances Act. Hopefully, this decision will act as a wake-up call to our congressional leaders, as national polling continues to show strong bi-partisan support for legalization.”
“This Jeff Sessions nonsense is out of control and the kind of thing that should get him removed from office. Not only is it one more thing this administration lied about after campaigning on letting the states decide for themselves, but it’s also economically stupid given all the money that has been going into the states from taxes through legalization. Not exactly shocking, considering we are talking about the same federal government that stupidly thought the best way to attack cannabis was to make banking illegal. Would love to have been in that meeting…”Hey guys, I know how we can get those pot people…let’s make them only use cash so we can’t trace, track, or tax any of it and they get to keep it all and make more money…that’ll show em!” The lack of intelligent thought in our government around this industry is astounding, even though it’s substantially safer than other legal things like alcohol, tobacco, and prescription narcotics.”
“Our initial take on the news that AG Sessions is rescinding the Cole Memo is that such rescission will in a vacuum allow local US Attorney’s to decide to prosecute people and business violating the Controlled Substance Act, whether or not they are acting in accordance with a robust regulatory State regime. However, any such federal enforcement/interference action, will, for the time being, be limited to actors in recreational states because the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to the spending bill for the U.S Justice Department prohibits the DOJ from using any of its budget/resources to interfere with or prosecute State-legal medical marijuana businesses.
Since his confirmation hearings, AG Sessions has indicated that Marijuana is illegal at a federal level and if Congress wants to change that it has the power to do so. We think that today’s action by AG Sessions may finally prompt Congressional action. This does not mean that Congress is going to de-schedule Marijuana as a controlled substance. There are a number of interim steps that Congress can take including, but not limited to, voting in favor of some amendments already before it that would (i) extend Rohrabacher-Farr for another year, (ii) extend the Rohrabacher-Farr protections to adult use markets (the Polis-McClintock amendment), (iii) provide for a reliable safe harbor for banks servicing state legal marijuana businesses, and/or (iv) reform Section 280e of the Tax Code that is being applied to the legalized marijuana industry in a penal way and in a manner that was not contemplated by its drafters.
A very complex and complicated area of the law just got more complicated. Numerous states depend on (and in some cases have already spent) the tax revenue projected to be generated by their State’s legalized program. Without Congressional action to protect this vibrant, compliant, and tax-paying industry against attacks by the DOJ, a huge fight is brewing between states and the DOJ. Is this how we want our governments, Federal and State, to spend precious resources? The will of the people has already been demonstrated at the polls and made the answer to this question clear. The silver lining of AG Sessions’ actions today is that Congress won’t be able to continue to ignore these big issues and hide behind the status quo provided by the Cole memo. AG Sessions has thrown down a gauntlet, and it is time for Congress to heed the will of the people that it serves and enact laws and pass amendments that protect and clarify the fastest growing industry in America.”
Article By Ethan Andersen