Trump Administration Promises Recreational Cannabis Enforcement


Yesterday, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer stated in his press conference that Americans could expect to see a greater crackdown on recreational marijuana laws. Currently, all marijuana businesses operate in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, which establishes national drug policy and outlaws numerous drugs, including marijuana. Federal raids are prevented by the Cole Memo and the Rohrbacher-Farr Amendment contained within the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

The Cole Memo was released in 2013 by James M. Cole, within President Obama’s Justice Department. It essentially states that marijuana businesses that are complying with the laws of their states and are not engaging in eight activities will not have the Controlled Substances Act enforced against them. Those eight activities include such things as diverting money or product to drug cartels or selling to minors.

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws. This amendment does not alter the scope of authority granted to the Department of Justice. Instead, it limits the spending power of the Justice Department to crack down on medical marijuana. The department still has the authority to act, but not the funds. Also, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment only curtails the Justice Department’s spending regarding medical marijuana. Eight states, (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington), and the District of Columbia permit recreational marijuana.

The Cole Memo was released under President Trump’s predecessor. A memo does not have the full strength and force of a law and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under no obligation to honor its terms. If the Cole Memo is no longer valid guidance, then the only thing protecting marijuana businesses is the Rohrbacher-Farr Amendment, which only extends to medical marijuana businesses. If the President instructs the Justice Department to pursue recreational medical marijuana businesses, then the Justice Department would have all necessary power to do so. In that case, it would be reasonable to see DEA raids on dispensaries, cultivation operations, and consumers.

It’s possible that we could see a bit of pushback from states, such as Colorado, who are unwilling to release the tax revenue generated by legal marijuana. However, states have minimal power against the federal government. Citizens who support legal marijuana can call their representatives, or they can also sign petitions to make their voices heard.

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