Nevada US attorney threatens to shut down cannabis event

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One of the largest marijuana consumer events – the High Times Cannabis Cup – is in peril.

Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden sent a letter on Feb. 16 to the Moapa Paiute Tribe warning that the event would be in violation of federal law. The tribe is scheduled to host the cup Saturday and Sunday on Native American lands north of Las Vegas.

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, Bogden warned the tribe it had incorrectly interpreted Justice Department memoranda that would permit them to hold the event.

“Nothing in (DOJ memoranda) alters the authority or the jurisdiction of the United States to enforce federal law in Indian Country or elsewhere,” Bogden wrote to the tribe.

Bogden’s stance arguably contradicts what many tribal leaders had seen as a green light from the government to enter the marijuana business, based on the 2014 Wilkinson Memo.

The memo appeared to give Native Americans the go-ahead to delve into the marijuana trade as long as they follow similar strictures as the states under the 2013 Cole Memo. The memo outlines eight key points to which states must adhere to avoid federal intervention, such as preventing illegal marijuana diversion to the black market and cannabis sales to minors.

Although the Cannabis Cup is typically more oriented toward consumers instead of companies, plenty of businesses will be on hand to hawk their wares, including at least eight corporate sponsors. That means if the event falls through, those companies would be directly affected.

As of Tuesday, it was still unclear whether the cup would go forward as planned. The key seems to be whether cannabis will be allowed at the event.

“As long as (marijuana) is not visible, we’re told it will be OK,” tribal chairman Darren Daboda told the Gazette-Journal. The tribe is still negotiating with the U.S. attorney’s office.

However, given the Trump administration’s unclear stance on marijuana and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ indications that recreational marijuana businesses could be targeted in coming years, this could be the first shot across the industry’s bow, since individual U.S. attorneys’ offices typically are given leeway in deciding which cases to pursue.