Sessions Signals Cannabis Complaisance

Deciphering Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ remarks on cannabis is critical to anticipating the future trajectory of the cannabis industry. Mr. Sessions has long been a cannabis opponent. Consequently, his appointment to Attorney General created worry throughout the cannabis industry. Mr. Sessions began to allay these worries shortly after his appointment by calling the enforcement priorities in Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole’s 2014 memorandum titled Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement (the “Cole Memo”) “truly valuable” and “valid.” On April 26, 2017, Mr. Sessions offered the cannabis industry further hope after his meeting with Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper.

Governor Hickenlooper reported Mr. Sessions was receptive to communicating with him and Governors Brown (OR), Walker (AK) and Inslee (WA) before making changes to the current cannabis regulatory and enforcement systems. Further, according to Governor Hickenlooper, Mr. Sessions is “reviewing the Cole Memo” and working on “a version … that makes sense for [the Trump] administration.” The Attorney General also stated one of his greatest concerns with respect to cannabis is increased drug consumption. Governor Hickenlooper reassured Mr. Sessions that in Colorado, recreational cannabis legalization has not caused a large spike in consumption, especially amongst teens.

When asked about increased federal enforcement, the Attorney General responded “well you haven’t seen us cracking down, have you?” According to Governor Hickenlooper, Mr. Sessions’ responses indicate the Department of Justice’s (the “DEA”) drug enforcement priorities will focus on hard drugs like heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine. Although Mr. Sessions is “not going to, in any way, encourage anyone to start a marijuana business,” he did not “give [Governor Hickenlooper] any reason to think that [the DEA] is going to come down and suddenly try to put everyone out of business.”

Though Governor Hickenlooper’s account of his meeting with Mr. Sessions is reassuring, it also reiterates the critical importance of compliance for cannabis businesses. To ensure their success, these businesses must take advantage of compliance platforms like PayQwick, whose comprehensive compliance assessment programs incorporate all applicable federal and state laws, regulations and guidelines. By making compliance a priority, these businesses can worry less about federal crackdowns and focus more on their businesses.

by Ken Berke PayQwick