Metaphorically speaking, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has torn up the Cole Memorandum. What exactly does that mean? While everyone in I502 and across the state knows this is a significant issue, it’s good to understand what this policy change does and does not do.
The Law is the Same
Federally speaking, marijuana growing, sale and possession are illegal. States have been able to grow their pot industries due to a written policy put in place under the last presidential administration. That policy, the Cole Memorandum, gave the federal representatives who would normally prosecute marijuana crimes, permission to focus money and time on other crimes instead. Now marijuana sale, use and possession need to be addressed on equal footing as any other federal law, according to Sessions’ decision.
States Still Have Rights
Cannabis-legal states have responded in some interesting – and fun – ways. Colorado Senators tweeted out “We’ll give Jeff Sessions our legal pot when he pries it from our warm, extremely interesting to look at hands.” Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State immediately issued a response in defense of the state and its laws. “We will vigorously defend our state’s laws against undue federal infringement,” Inslee wrote on the official state governor’s website. Washington State Attorney General Ferguson is also a defender of current state law, and intends to join the fight against federal prosecution. What does that mean?
You Can Still Buy Cannabis
Risk to individuals purchasing marijuana is similar to before the policy change. While it is a federal crime, the state AG has very little intention of prosecuting marijuana-only federal crimes. State policies, laws and limitations of course still apply.
The Impact is Far Reaching
Not only is there an immediate effect on the market, the Sessions enforcement stance could further draw out the ability to bank with federally insured financial institutions, insure marijuana businesses and claim tax deductions available to businesses outside of I502.
Some Good Could Come of This
Sessions’ official justification for the policy change is not a hatred of the evil “devil’s weed”, it’s equal enforcement of federal laws. On the surface, this is a sound idea; if an action is against federal law it should not be ignored by the fed. However, given the changing attitudes of the American people toward cannabis and cannabis consumption, the law may no longer reflect the will of the people. With luck and action, Sessions may have paved the path toward nation-wide legalization.