The hints, at first, came subtly and seldom. But as the Trump Administration’s hostile stance to cannabis comes into clearer focus, hints have turned to threats. And those threats of a crackdown are starting to sound like promises.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Tuesday, in his testimony before Congress, once again emphasized that Trump’s Department of Justice intends to enforce federal prohibition. Rosenstein went even further, claiming that marijuana’s absurd classification as a Schedule I controlled substance is “proper.”
‘That means, in the view of Rosenstein and the federal government, cannabis is equal in danger to heroin, and officially considered more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine, both Schedule II substances. Let that sink in.
‘It’s Illegal’During his testimony, Rosenstein said, “We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states. It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids… I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science.
“And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug,” Rostenstein said. “It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I. And therefore we have this conflict.”
“We’re responsible for enforcing the law,” Rosenstein said. “It’s illegal, and that is the federal policy with regards to marijuana.”
NORML: ‘Disturbing’“Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is implying that the DOJ under Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration is pursuing a path to undermine legal state medical marijuana programs,” said Justin Strekal, political director with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “With 30 states choosing to put patients first by allowing those suffering to make their healthcare decisions under the supervision of their doctors, it is absurd that this administration would make such veiled threats.
“Last time I checked, neither Rosenstein, Sessions, nor President Trump are doctors and their zeal to threaten those who are sick is disturbing,” Strekal added.
Federal Guidance From The Obama Years: The Cole MemoThe Cole Memo, a Justice Department memorandum authored by US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US Attorneys in all 50 states, directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale. They are not to be targeted as long as such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other federal guidelines.
“Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum. At the moment that memo is still in effort,” Rosenstein said on Tuesday of the policy, reports Andrea Noble at The Washington Times. “Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we are still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana.”
“Given that AG Sessions has recently reiterated that the Cole Memo is valid, Rod Rosenstein would be wise to maintain the current interpretation and not interfere with the right of states to set and enforce their own marijuana policies,” NORML’s Strekal said.
Murkowski Notes Marijuana Business ChallengesDescribing the challenges legal cannabis businesses face, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), had asked the deputy attorney general to describe where the Justice Department is headed with regard to marijuana. Alaska is one of eight states where residents have voted to legalize adult recreational use of cananbis.
Sen. Murkowski invoked the Cole Memorandum, and noted the banking difficulties and state tax payment complications faced by cannabis businesses. “I’m concerned, and I’m speaking for a lot of people in my state, who are worried about the inconsistency between the state marijuana laws as well as the federal marijuana policy,” she said.
Sessions Wants To Go After Medical MarijuanaNews broke Monday night that Sessions is asking Congressional leaders not to renew a federal law that has afforded some protection to state medical marijuana laws. In a letter first obtained by Tom Angell of MassRoots, Sessions last month wrote to leaders asking that they not renew the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which restricts the DOJ from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
During a Q and A session with reporters in Richmond, Virginia, in March, Attorney General Sessions had said “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid.”
Governors Say Hands Off Marijuana StatesBut while the Justice Department contemplates its next move, state politicians are taking action. Recently, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to Attorney General Sessions and to Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the Obama Administration’s largely “hands off” policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo.
“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”