Friday, 28 April 2017

The Trump crackdown on legal marijuana probably isn't coming

John Hickenlooper

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he doesn't think the Trump administration will crack down on states that have legalized marijuana, following an hour-long conversation with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday.

Sessions "didn't give me any reason to think that he's going to come down and try and put everyone out of business," Hickenlooper told MSNBC's Chuck Todd following the meeting.

Marijuana is federally illegal, though eight states have passed legislation to allow the recreational use and sale of the plant. 

The Trump administration has sent mixed signals about whether or not they intend to crackdown on the burgeoning marijuana industry.

Sean Spicer promised "greater enforcement" of federal laws in February, and Sessions himself has said that he's "not a fan" of the expanded use of marijuana, and that he'll enforce federal laws in an "appropriate way."

However, Sessions is a "pretty strong supporter of states being laboratories of democracy," Hickenlooper told MSNBC's Chuck Todd. 

Hickenlooper added that Sessions has "got his hands full" with the opioid crisis and other hard drugs— along with implementing the Trump administration's agenda on immigration. 

Sessions reportedly told Hickenlooper toward the end of their meeting, "you haven't seen us cracking down, have you?"

The key takeaway is that Sessions is unlikely to enforce federal laws against state-legal marijuana businesses, The Denver Post editorial board said, applauding Sessions for taking the time to discuss the issue with Hickenlooper. 

The Justice Department's approach to marijuana is governed by the Cole Memorandum, a 2013 directive from the Obama-era which stipulates that the Justice Department place a "low priority" on enforcing marijuana laws against businesses and organizations that comply with state law.

Doug Friednash, Hickenlooper's chief-of-staff, told The Post that Sessions said the Cole Memo was "not too far from good policy."

Sessions ordered the Justice Department to review the memo earlier this month. 

Hickenlooper, for his part, said state-legal marijuana enterprises "better be absolutely clean" to avoid provoking the Justice Department. 

Brian Vicente, a partner at the Denver-based law firm Vicente Sederberg and one of the authors of Colorado's amendment to legalize marijuana, told Business Insider in March that he's advising his clients to "clamp down" on compliance, as Sessions will likely go after "bad actors" in the industry.

"This sort of doubling-down on compliance will keep our customers from falling within those crosshairs," he said. 

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