The U.S. Attorney General rolled back Obama-era guidelines for dealing with states with voter-approved marijuana sales.
What we think:
The move, by design, destabilizes the marijuana industry.
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions created uncertainty for medical and recreational marijuana business owners and investors throughout the country.
In a move that generated more questions than it answered, Sessions rolled back the Obama-era Cole Memorandum that offered legal sellers of marijuana — in states with voter-approved medical and recreational sales — relief from federal prosecution. Instead, Sessions left it up to the U.S. Attorneys in each district to decide how to handle marijuana use and sales.
This questionable move comes at a time when the nation’s opioid crisis is worsening, with states and municipalities struggling to address addiction stemming from the over-prescription of painkillers. The president declared it “the worst drug crisis in American history,” yet Sessions has decided to target one of his pet issues: marijuana.
Sessions has long been a vocal opponent of legalization. But given the toll opioid addiction is taking on the workforce, on businesses and on families, it seems particularly tone-deaf of the administration to waste limited resources targeting recreational sales, approved by nine states, and medical marijuana, approved by 29 states.
In Colorado, legal marijuana accounts for thousands of jobs and more than $225 million in state revenue.
Colorado Springs benefits from sales tax on medical marijuana, and recreational sales have helped Manitou Springs pay for long-delayed infrastructure repairs. Uncertainty in the markets could lead to decreases in that revenue, harming the state’s bottom line and pulling funds from Colorado cities and counties that tax and license the industry.
Amendment 64 promised to regulate recreational marijuana the same as alcohol, and Colorado’s seed-to-sale tracking system operates to keep marijuana out of the hands of children. In fact, underage marijuana use is down in Colorado since voter-approved recreational sales began in 2014.
So why is Sessions addressing it now?
He clearly wants to create enough uncertainty to curb investment in marijuana businesses. Who is going to spend money to meet state and local regulations when they don’t know if they’ll be closed down by the Drug Enforcement Administration or overzealous U.S. Attorneys?
A majority of voters in a majority of states have voted in favor of legalized marijuana in some form. Congress should respect the will of the people and states’ rights by protecting legal sales from federal action. Sessions should consider Prohibition’s colossal failure, and keep his personal biases out of America’s legal system.