Is this the end of the line for the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment?
When it comes to the fastest-growing industries in the United States, legal marijuana is certainly in the discussion, if not at the top of the list. According to Marijuana Business Daily‘s latest report, “Marijuana Business Factbook 2017,” U.S. legal weed sales are expected to increase 30% this year and 45% in 2018, and to quadruple between 2016 and 2021 to $17 billion. That type of growth is a big reason why marijuana stocks have doubled or tripled in value over the trailing year. But it’s not just sales growth that’s been impressive — it’s the shift that underlies cannabis’s expansion. An October-released Gallup poll showed that an all-time record 64% of respondents now want to see pot legalized nationally. This is up from just 25% in 1995, the year before California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis for compassionate-use patients. Even stronger favorability is seen with medical cannabis. A survey conducted by the independent Quinnipiac University this April showed that an overwhelming 94% support legalizing medical pot, compared to just 5% who oppose the idea.
But not everyone is on board with the expansion of cannabis in the United States. Attorney General Jeff Sessions just might be the most ardent opponent of marijuana in the country. Having previously said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions has argued on numerous occasions that marijuana use isn’t a viable substitute for opioids and that pot use correlates with increased crime rates. He has also leaned on the fact that marijuana is still a schedule I drug at the federal level, meaning that it has no recognized medical benefits and is wholly illegal, just like heroin and LSD. However, medical and recreational pot businesses have taken solace in the fact that both the Cole Memo and Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment have thus far protected their right to operate in the 29 states that have legalized medical cannabis and eight states that voted to green-light recreational weed.
The Cole Memo, named after former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who served under Barack Obama, outlines a series of “rules” that states have to follow in order for the federal government to maintain a hands-off approach. These rules include ensuring that minors don’t gain access to pot, that drivers under the influence of cannabis are dealt with harshly, and that cannabis grown within a state stays within that state.
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