The past week has been a huge success for the legal cannabis industry. A provision in the renewed budget bill (Rohrabacher-Farr amendment) will continue to protect states with medical cannabis laws from federal intervention – at least for now.
The bill, which will likely pass this week, is only valid until the end of September.
For US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has a dark reputation for his conservative, traditional beliefs surrounding cannabis, this means that his efforts to kneecap the establishment of medical cannabis in the country has been derailed. Without funding from Congress, his ability to enforce his strict views is severely limited.
Sessions isn’t going down without a fight, as his focus now shifts to states with fully legal cannabis laws. Unfortunately, the amendment only covers legal cannabis on a medicinal level, leaving states with recreational laws in limbo.
Should the Attorney General move forward with his plans, which are still very nascent and vague, retail cannabis stores based in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California, could be targeted and badly affected.
Should business owners who are deeply invested in the emerging industry be worried about Session’s statements surrounding recreational cannabis? According to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), the answer could be no.
Governor Hickenlooper reveals more
In a recent interview with Cheddar Founder and CEO Jon Steinberg (previously President and COO of BuzzFeed), the Governor provided a glimpse of his recent meeting with Sessions.
“I’m not going to do anything that in any way encourages someone to open a marijuana sales store or a marijuana grow. You’re not going to hear me say a word that will encourage anyone in any way. That being said, we’ve got higher priorities. We don’t have unlimited resources,”
reported Gov. Hickenlooper when asked what the Attorney General said during the meeting.
The “higher priorities” Sessions was referring to includes hard drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. During the meeting, he failed to clarify his stance on alcohol abuse, which is responsible for roughly 88,000 deaths per year..
To reassure active participants in the recreational cannabis sector, Gov. Hickenlooper provided his own take away from the meeting:
“He [Sessions] was basically saying that the people in this industry better be clean; if they have a problem with the local government, who knows what the federal government will do. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he closed somebody down every now and then to make a statement, but it’s not his highest priority.”
His two-step insight is key to avoiding Session’s wrath over the industry. As long as businesses closely adhere to local cannabis laws that are designed to protect them, they should be able to avoid run-ins with the feds.
As for the second part of Gov. Hickenlooper’s takeaway, it seems to be a warning as to what could potentially happen to groups who don’t follow state guidelines surrounding legal cannabis. Since it’s not the Attorney General’s “highest priority” (and due to lack of funding), it is very unlikely that he will go out of his way to disassemble law-abiding businesses.