Not only did Republican Senator Corey Gardner of Colorado blast AG Sessions’ rescission of the Cole Memo and not only is Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts leading a new effort to make sure that vendors working with marijuana businesses don’t have their banking privileges taken away, but it now appears that it is ever more likely that Congress will soon act to protect marijuana laws in states that have legalized its use. In other words, Sessions action may have catapulted republicans and democrats alike in Congress to finally come together and change the law that classifies marijuana as among the most dangerous drugs like heroin and LSD.
Warren stated that “the reckless action by the DOJ disrupts the ability of states to enforce their own drug policies and puts our public health and safety at risk”. Gardner railed that the AG “trampled on the will of the voters” while democratic Governor John Hickenlooper and republican US Representative Mike Coffman, both of Colorado, site the Commerce Clause of the Constitution referring to no intrastate interference by the feds. Hickenlooper said that Sessions’ decision does not “alter the strength of our resolve”. State leaders in Washington, including AG Ferguson and Governor Inslee vowed to protect pot sales and declared that no local resources would be dedicated to federal enforcement.
Guidance from the Cole memo acted to shield marijuana businesses that operate properly within a legal state system from federal prosecution. Prosecutors in those states were to focus on “illicit enterprises” like selling to children or selling across state lines. So what happens now, without the Cole memo?
Marijuana is now a “tightly and highly regulated industry and flourishing in states that have approved its sale”. The proverbial genie is out of the bottle, along with the creation of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. More importantly there is overwhelming public support and what now is a track record of strict compliance and regulatory controls and restrictions that have been working like a well oiled machine in states that have legalized pot.
Perhaps a rogue US attorney could come along who is motivated and guided by his ideology rather than the public’s protection who can cause some chaos in the marijuana industry. But this is likely to backfire and result in both isolation of such prosecutors and also create a bipartisan uproar from government and law enforcement officials, not to mention the voters who will ultimately become the jurors in their courtrooms.
Sessions once said “Good people don’t smoke marijuana”. It is our hope that good federal prosecutors will continue to leave those operating marijuana businesses within a legalized state system, alone.