Marijuana Business Magazine October 2018

COLUMN: TRENDS AND HOT TOPICS T he toothpaste is out of the tube. The genie is out of the bottle. Take your pick of analogies. I’ve heard them all when it comes to marijuana legalization in the United States. In November 2016, the U.S. mari- juana industry was aflutter over both the election of President Donald Trump and his nearly immediate announce- ment that then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions would be his attorney general. Worries abounded among canna- bis industry executives that Sessions would resurrect the war on drugs. Many also speculated that raids on state-licensed MJ companies could lead to an extended legal battle with the federal government over states’ rights, perhaps even with the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately playing a role. Of course, none of that has come to pass; it's been nearly the opposite. The Trump administration has, in effect, taken the same hands-off approach to state-legal marijuana as the Obama administration – even though Sessions did send shockwaves through the industry at the start of 2018, when he rescinded several Obama-era cannabis policies. Not only has the federal govern- ment declined to shutter or prosecute state-licensed MJ companies, but since Trump has been in office, the industry has advanced across the nation: • West Virginia legalized medical cannabis in April 2017. • Full adult-use sales began in Cali- fornia in January – ushering in the largest U.S. marijuana market yet – without interference from the feds. • Vermont became the first state in the nation in January 2018 to legal- ize adult-use marijuana through its legislature. Lawmakers didn’t autho- rize recreational sales, only posses- sion, but attempts to establish a rec market are ongoing. • MMJ sales in Pennsylvania began in February 2018 without federal interference. • Oklahoma, one of the reddest states in the nation, overwhelm- ingly voted in June to legalize one of the most liberal medical mari- juana programs in the country. • The same month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved the first medicine made from cannabis. • Residents of Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah all are set to vote on legalization of either rec or medical marijuana in November. • New Jersey voters elected Phil Mur- phy in 2017 to succeed the notori- ously anti-cannabis Chris Christie. The Democratic governor is actively trying to fulfill a campaign pledge to legalize rec marijuana, and the Trump administration has done nothing to stand in his way. In fact, all signals from Trump have been that he’s fine with letting states take the lead on marijuana, a stance that’s been supported by many Repub- lican establishment figures in Washing- ton DC, including U.S. Sen. Cory Gard- ner from Colorado. Trump even went so far as to tell reporters in June that he “probably” would support a bipartisan bill in Congress to formally give states all the legal power they need to legal- ize and regulate marijuana. Meanwhile, Sessions’ move to rescind multiple Obama-era policies in January has had little effect on the industry – aside from maintaining the status quo. To the best of my knowledge, none of the 93 U.S. attorneys has decided to target state-licensed MJ businesses after Sessions gave them the green light to do so when he yanked those policies, including the 2013 Cole Memo. While recreational cannabis execu- tives and employees technically do remain vulnerable to prosecution by Sessions and his Department of Justice (DOJ) – they’re not protected by a fed- eral law that shields state-authorized medical marijuana companies – the likelihood of any such cases actually going to court is probably slim to none. All Bark and No Bite Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration are content to follow Obama-era policies on states’ rights, MJ regulation By John Schroyer John Schroyer 34 • Marijuana Business Magazine • October 2018