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Senator Introduces Bill To Legalize Marijuana At The Federal Level In A Big Move

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, Senator Cory Booker introduced a bold plan to legalize marijuana at the federal level. For Booker, this is a massively important step toward ending the war on drugs.Before outliningwhat was in the bill, Booker delved into his motivations for pushing for marijuana legalizationduring a Facebook live video in which he formally announced the bill.

We are not seeing the equal application of our criminal justice system, Booker said. We have focused [the War on Drugs] on people in the most vulnerable communities.

Booker noted, for example, that black people are roughly four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana, despite almost identical rates of pot usage. In Booker’s view, it’s profoundly hypocritical to criminalize young people for life for doing things more minor, in terms of drug use, than two of our last three presidents admitted to doing.

But, more importantly, Booker explained, legalizing marijuana at the federal level would be a practical and ethical thing for the United States to do given the major potential social and economic benefits. Along these lines, Booker noted states around the country that have legalized marijuana have seen a drop in crime and a rise in revenue.

The New Jersey senator hopes to build on this progress via the elements of his bill.

Booker’s marijuana legalization bill has four parts.

First, Booker’s bill would remove marijuana from the federal scheduling system, which is why weed is currently illegal at the federal level.While eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, it still remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government. Booker’s bill would change this. In Booker’s view, marijuana legalization in and of itself doesn’t go far enough. He also wants to address the damage current federal marijuana laws have done to American communities.

Accordingly, the next aspect of his bill retroactively expunges people who’ve been convicted for use and possession of marijuana. It would also give an avenue to people currently in prison for marijuana use or possession to petition for their sentences to be reduced or eliminated.

On top of this, the bill would use federal funds to encourage states to legalize marijuana. Technically, even if the federal government legalized pot, states could refuse to do so. This bill seeks to address this by simultaneously pushing for legalization at the federal and state level.

Finally, the bill creates a community reinvestment fund, which would allow communities disproportionately impacted by draconian marijuana laws to apply for funds that could be allocated toward job training, reentry services, public libraries, community centers, and more.

This bill arguably has an extremely slim chance of making it through Congress.

Booker has no co-sponsors on the bill, but he’s hopeful he can generate bipartisan support. But while criminal justice reform has bipartisan support from a broad standpoint, it’s unlikely a Congress controlled by Republicans will help a Democratic senator legalize marijuana.

Not to mention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who believes marijuana is only slightly less awful than heroin, is vehemently opposed to such a move and would likely use his influence to push against it.

Still, it does go to show how far this country has come in terms of the movement for marijuana legalization, and this is possiblythe most comprehensive piece of legislation ever put forward on this issue.

 

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Eaze is moving into recreational marijuana delivery with $27 million in new funding

The cannabis industry has lit up in the last year, including weed delivery startup Eaze, which just raised $27 million in Series B financing and claims a 300 percent year-over-year increase in gross sales.

But the weed delivery startup has come under scrutiny recently for burning through at least $1 million in cash per month. In contrast, other software-based pot delivery startups like Meadow have played it lean, focusing more on improving the software and logistics.

Eaze has gone hard on marketing spend, using aggressive growth tactics and burning through the $24.5 million it had previously raised in VC cash.

New CEO of the company Jim Patterson, who took over the role in December 2017 explains his approach as just part of the Silicon Valley cycle to get ahead, “We are a tech startup…we’re investing in growth,” he told TechCrunch when asked about the high burn rate. “We’re investing the money now in what’s clearly going to be a very big market.”

Part of the pop in the pot delivery industry is due to tech finally meeting the needs of the medical marijuana community in the state of California, where Eaze operates. Eaze uses its proprietary software to help consumers with a medical marijuana license in the state buy pot from local dispensaries and then delivers those purchases to their door.

However, California is set to begin issuing licenses for the cultivation and selling of the plant for recreational use at the beginning of 2018, which will open up a whole new revenue stream for Eaze and others in the space.

Colorado, a state where recreational use of the drug has been legal for a couple of years now, is reportedly pulling in nearly $100 million in pot sales per month and the marijuana industry is slated to balloon to a $24 billion dollar business by 2025.

Eaze is making the bet on high growth now to cash in on a good piece of those profits later, telling TechCrunch this was the reason for the Series B raise.

 

We should note that its conceivable other larger tech companies in the delivery logistics space like Amazon could just as easily decide to get into the space, crushing little startups like Meadow and Eaze in the process.

Patterson admits that’s not a far-fetched scenario but doesn’t think it will happen. “If you’re doing anything in retail and not thinking about Amazon at this point you’re crazy,” he said. “But the reality is [weed delivery] is still complicated at the federal level.”

Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Laws recently passed for Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota have yet to become effective. Recreational use is legal in eight states, though, as mentioned above, certain licensing provisions don’t take effect in California until the new year.

It may not be so complicated as more states adopt marijuana legalization for both medical and recreational use in the years ahead and Patterson doesn’t count out future competition from the Everything Store.

“But I do think we have a couple of years and hopefully Eaze will be a lot bigger by then and by then maybe it will be less scary than it would be now with only 80 employees,” he told TechCrunch.

Bailey Capital led the round, with participation from DCM Ventures, Kaya Ventures and FJ Labs.

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Colorado Marijuana Sales Expected To Break Records

Following the November elections, eight states currently offer legal adult use of marijuana. But regardless of the growing competition, Colorado, which have the greatest number of marijuana sales this past year, will probably still bag higher marijuana sales compared to the other states in 2017.

Only four months into the year, the Centennial State is already on course to possess its highest grossing year yet in marijuana sales. During January and February, Colorado racked up $235 million in overall marijuana sales, a 30% spike when compared with the state’s recreational and medical marijuana sales during the same time in 2016, based on a report by Cannabis Benchmarks, a company that monitors marijuana sales and prices.

With Colorado’s city streets filled with marijuana stores selling medical and recreational marijuana goods and its booming cannabis tourism, marijuana sales across the state kicked off 2017 at full throttle. In January of this year, $109 million worth of marijuana was sold in Colorado in medical and recreational markets, a more than 38% increase from what the state had in January 2016, when marijuana consumers bought $88.5 million in cannabis products. Sales in February were even more remarkable, with the state generating $126 million in marijuana purchases compared to February 2016’s $92.7 million.

In total, the country’s marijuana industry grossed over $6 billion in marijuana sales in 2016, $1.3 billion of which was generated from sales in Colorado.

The report said wholesale marijuana prices were down 33% in total, so Colorado customers might be using the reduced-priced marijuana as a way to stock up. The state had 48% marijuana product purchases in January and February than what was purchased during the same time in 2016.

The company mentioned concern over federal marijuana crackdowns, current customers spending more cash on marijuana and new customers going into the market as reasons why marijuana purchases were on the incline this year.

It is expected that Colorado might have a record-breaking marijuana sales and keep its standing as the highest grossing marijuana state in 2017, but that could change once California gets its recreational market ready to go. California won’t execute its recreational program until January 2018 but is anticipated to have about $1.6 billion of revenue within its first year.

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420 Celebrations Around the Country: The Biggest Day for Marijuana

It feels like Christmas for the country’s legal marijuana stores today. Not only Christmas but all other holidays rolled in to one one smoky party known as 420.

April 20 has for a long time been a day full of civil disobedience by marijuana users, who assemble in public to light up weed at 4:20 p.m. The phrase “420” is a longtime code for marijuana users, who work it into dating profiles or post it on signs to show their common interest. But while it used to be a celebration held using a particular degree of furtiveness, the swiftly growing legalization of cannabis means an increasing number of Americans no longer face critical, if any, punishment for smoking weed.

All states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana also have prohibited public consumption, but those rules in many cases are dismissed on April 20, when crowds assemble on college campuses and central parks to light up. That means huge sales days for shops, particularly in states with operating marijuana marketplaces: Washington, Oregon and Colorado, which could see single-day 420 sales of $20 million.

One of Colorado’s largest marijuana stores, the Medicine Man, anticipated to see more than double the regular number of customers each day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Legalization activists usually stage stunts along with the 420 celebrations.

In Washington, D.C., for example, activists are planning to give out 1,000 marijuana cigarettes to Capitol Hill workers and members of Congress, and then hold a mass “smoke-in” on the Capitol steps Monday. They’re attempting to convince Congress to reauthorize a law prohibiting federal prosecutors from interfering with state-level medical marijuana programs and are also seeking clarity on the way in which the Trump administration will approach voter-approved recreational weed.

While the District of Columbia’s voters have approved recreational marijuana, Congress has prohibited the district from creating any kind of system to allow taxable sales.

In Washington state, marijuana sales are anticipated to easily top last year’s quantity of $4.8 million from April 20, 2016. And the 2016 numbers themselves represented a staggering 200% increase over 2015. According to New Frontier, making a year-to-year comparisons of marijuana sales is challenging since the industry is very fresh and growing so rapidly and because people frequently celebrate 420 on the weekend closest to it, as opposed to the actual day.

But for a lot of customers, there’s an undeniable appeal to say that they purchased legal marijuana for that special day. In Colorado’s cannabis shops, the demand was evident Wednesday: lines snaking through receptions and guards accumulating cash as harried workers raced to complete orders. Many hotels in Denver are sold out, and cannabis tourists were pouring into the state for free concerts and then a gigantic rally outside the Statehouse.

In Nevada, which recently legalized recreational marijuana, even if they still only have stores for medical marijuana, business was likewise expected to be lively.

In Oakland, Calif, marijuana-infused sweets manufacturer Kiva made 60,000 special-edition samples of the company’s low-dose Petra mints and plans to hold 55 sampling occasions around the state this week. And in Tulare County, Calif.’s, only dispensary, Canna Can Help, workers have purchased 1,000 tacos for their planned customer appreciation day this weekend.

Back inside the Medicine Man in Denver, first-time cannabis tourists pronounced themselves astounded at the available variety and choices. Grams of popular forms were selling for $17 plus tax, and like many shops, Medicine Man was offering 420 specials intended for tourists, including pre-rolled joints.

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Meet Colorado’s “The Stoner Mom”

Kathryn VanEaton is a stay-at-home mother of two kids, and also a step-mom to two more.

She picks up her children from school every single day, each night she makes dinner after which her family sits down at the table to enjoy eating together.

Kathryn VanEaton is also a user of cannabis, who has gone by “Stoner Mom,” since she started a blog of the exact same name.

“When mommy blogging became big, this was like what, early 2000s? It was amazing because moms could be like, ‘Oh, I’m a mom and I do this.’ Or, ‘Oh, I’m a mom and I do that}.’ There’s all these different niches that they could get into in the context of being a true mother,” VanEaton says.

VanEaton had been blogging for 12 years before the onset of Stoner Mom in 2014. She was a photographer that time, who had gotten bored with that routine. At that stage, she thought, she was in a distinctive position to blog not only about her life being a mom, but as well as to blog about being a legal user of marijuana.

“I would get high with my girlfriend on girls’ night in, and we’d just talk about how amusing it was that we were smoking marijuana in secret. We’re the same moms – we’re home, we’re picking up our children from school, and sleeping with our kids, or not getting any sleep,” she says. “People didn’t actually know that the mom at the supermarket with the enormous grocery bill is also a pothead.”

VanEaton says she uses marijuana for both medical and recreational reasons, either when the youngsters, between the ages of 5 and 10, are out of the house or after they go to sleep. If it’s not being used, the marijuana is kept in a secured room in the basement, or inside of bags safeguarded with a combination lock.

She created the blog to eliminate the stigma for moms like her who use cannabis.

“Cannabis users have to be grownups, clearly, but adults are quite often parents,” VanEaton says. “If there’s even the inkling that you might be misunderstood as a mother, persecuted as a mom, have your kids taken away, God forbid, or even merely have your community judge you as a terrible mom, those are all deal breakers for mothers. There’s actually no choice. A responsible mother in a legal state can’t come out. It looks bad on her as a mother.”

The pages on her blog offer something for any user. Some of the videos are titled “How to Clean a Bong,” “The Easiest Way to Roll a Joint,” “How I Use Cannabis for Depression,” “Get Ready With Me! Stoned,” and “Dabbing for Beginners.”

She also posts “Stoner Sesh” videos, which reveal her smoking and give audiences “a friend to get high with” she says. There also reviews of strains of marijuana, or edibles.

“You have a story. It’s intriguing. And It’s fascinating to other parents. Simply because you don’t have a mainstream story doesn’t mean you don’t have one,” she says. “For individuals who don’t agree, I would say look away.”

VanEaton says there was never a concern about telling close friends or family members about being a mother who uses marijuana.

Her blog has become her business. She also runs a YouTube channel and a podcast.

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How Colorado Intends Protect Marijuana Industry from a Possible Federal Crackdown

Colorado is contemplating an uncommon strategy to safeguard its nascent marijuana industry from a possible federal crackdown even at the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax collections.

A bill pending in the Legislature would enable marijuana growers and retailers to reclassify their recreational marijuana as medical marijuana if a change in federal law or enforcement happens.

It’s the boldest effort yet by a U.S. marijuana state to prevent federal intervention in its weed market.

The bill would enable Colorado’s 500 or so licensed recreational marijuana growers to immediately reclassify their weed. A change would cost the state more than $100 million a year because Colorado taxes medical marijuana far more lightly than recreational marijuana — 2.9 percent versus 17.9 percent.

The measure says licensed growers could instantly become medical licensees based on a business need as a result of change in local, state or federal law or enforcement policy. The change wouldn’t take recreational marijuana off the books, but nevertheless, it wouldn’t completely safeguard it either. What it could do is help growers protect their inventory in case federal authorities begin confiscating recreational marijuana.

The provision is receiving plenty of attention in the marijuana industry following recent opinions from members of President Donald Trump’s administration. White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said there’s a “big difference” between recreational and medical marijuana.

Sponsors of the bill call it a possible exit strategy for the new marijuana industry. It’s difficult to say how many businesses would be affected, or if medical marijuana would flood the market, because some businesses hold licenses to both grow and sell marijuana in Colorado.

The state had about 827,000 marijuana plants growing in the retail system in June, the latest available data. More than half were for the recreational market.

“If there’s a change in federal law, then I think all of our businesses want to stay in business somehow. They’ve made major investments,” said Sen. Tim Neville, a suburban Denver Republican who sponsored the bill.

If federal authorities begin seizing recreational marijuana, Colorado’s recreational marijuana entrepreneurs need in order to convert that merchandise into the medical side to allow them to sell it,” Neville said.

His bill passed a committee in the Republican Senate 4-1 last week.

But it’s uncertain whether the measure could pass the complete Colorado Senate or the Democratic House. Skeptics of the proposal doubt the classification change would do considerably more than cost Colorado tax money.

“It’s a big deal for our tax system because this money has been coming in and has been set aside for this, that and the other,” said Sen. Lois Court, a Denver Democrat who voted against the bill.

Schools would be the first casualty of a tax change. Colorado sends $40 million a year to a school-building fund from excise taxes on recreational marijuana. It’s a tax that doesn’t exist for medical marijuana.

Other things financed by recreational marijuana in Colorado include training for police in identifying stoned drivers, a public-education campaign aimed toward reducing teen marijuana use, and a range of medical studies on marijuana’s effectiveness treating ailments like seizures or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The proposal comes amid mixed signals {from the federal government on the way in which the Trump administration intends to take care of states that aren’t enforcing federal drug law.

Spicer said the president understands the suffering and pain many individuals, particularly people that have terminal diseases, suffer “and the comfort that some of these substances, including medical marijuana, can bring to them.”

But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed doubts about marijuana’s medical worth.

“Medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much,” Sessions said in a speech to law enforcement agencies in Richmond, Virginia.

Marijuana activists say giving the industry a choice to keep their inventory legal is a precious idea for recreational marijuana states. They point out that a change in federal policy wouldn’t make the drug magically vanish from the eight states that allow recreational use, along with Washington, D.C.
Colorado would be the first marijuana state to take action to safeguard producers from a federal drug crackdown in case the bill becomes law.

A bill pending in the Oregon Legislature intends to protect the names and other personal information of marijuana buyers by making it illegal for shops to keep an internal log of customers’ personal data, a practice that’s already prohibited or discouraged in Colorado, Alaska and Washington state.

Other states such as California are considering proposals that will bar state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal authorities on investigations into cannabis operations which are legal in their jurisdictions.

Members of Congress from some marijuana states have talked about attempting to block federal intervention in marijuana states. Congress could reclassify marijuana so medical use is allowed, or it can attempt to block federa enforcement of marijuana prohibition during the federal budget.

Nevertheless, the proposed Colorado change could be a long shot attempt.

Recreational and medical marijuana are the same product. The only difference between them is how they’re used, and also the U.S. Controlled Substances Act says marijuana has no valid medical use. Federal health regulators have rejected repeated efforts to carve out a legal place for marijuana use by sick people.

Sponsors granted there aren’t any guarantees that reclassifying all that marijuana as medicine would cease a federal crackdown.

However they say Colorado shouldn’t sit idly by and wait to find out whether the Trump administration begins enforcing federal drug law by attacking businesses which are legal under state law.

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Actor Patrick Stewart Supports Oxford University’s Marijuana Research Program

The program will analyze the function of cannabis medications in treating pain, cancer and inflammatory diseases.

It follows calls from some MPs for legalization of cannabis on medical reasons, with such calls being backed by 58 per cent this past year.

In the last few years, studies have supported the medical value of cannabis for treating ailments for example multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and arthritis, and for coping with nerve pain.

The new program is a partnership between Kingsley Capital Partners and Oxford University, who are investing £10m an attempt to create an international center of excellence in cannabinoid research.

Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at Oxford, Ahmed Ahmed, said studies had began to make exciting biological discoveries, which might lead to new treatments for a host of different ailments.

“This area holds great promise for developing innovative therapeutic opportunities for cancer patients,” he said.

The program has received uncommon support – from actor Sir Patrick Stewart, who uses medical marijuana to treat ortho-arthritis.

He told the Telegraph: “Two years ago, in Los Angeles I was examined by a physician and given a note which gave me legal permission to buy, from a registered outlet, cannabis-based products, which I was advised might help the ortho-arthritis in both my hands.”

Routine usage of an ointment and chewy bar had enabled him to sleep through the night, while spraying his hands during the day had brought back mobility in his hands, he said, allowing him to make fists.

“As an outcome of this experience, I enthusiastically support the Oxford University Cannabis Research Plan,” he said.

The actor said he expected the research would help him and millions of others.

“This is an important step forward for Britain in a field of research that’s for too long been held back by prejudice, fear and ignorance.”

Now neither the Conservative nor Labour Party officially supports legalizing cannabis for medical use. Both Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have called for legalization for medical use for a while.

Sativex – a prescription-only drug used by patients afflicted by Multiple Sclerosis – is the sole licensed cannabis-based product in the Britain and is given to help facilitate muscle spasms. Nonetheless it’s doesn’t cause a high and is non-psychoactive.

NHS rationing bodies have rejected its use saying it was too costly to justify.

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Colorado Governor Hickenlooper’s Marijuana Advice To California

Colorado’s governor played sage to California on Tuesday, warning lawmakers that their state has a “steep hill” ahead in legalizing recreational marijuana and encouraging them to pay attention to aspects like home-grow regulations, pesticides and public security.

Hickenlooper addressed California lawmakers in Sacramento to discuss his learned lessons and words of wisdom from when his state established first-of-its-kind, adult-use cannabis sales in 2014.

“It’s one of the most challenging things we’ve ever done, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in public life, but also one of the things I’m most proud of,” Hickenlooper said during a Senate Governance and Finance committee oversight hearing on cannabis tax system implementation.

Hickenlooper told lawmakers when voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012 and his concerns about the unintended effects of this kind of move, and of how he wasn’t at first a supporter of legalized marijuana in Colorado.

Take Colorado’s home-grow regulations, which allow for medical marijuana patients to have up to 99 plants with a physician’s approval. A “gray market” was spawned by the lax regulations in Colorado and created more possibility for out-of-state deflection, he said.

“It’s a stupid system, and I would encourage you guys to clamp down,” Hickenlooper said.

Amendment 64 permits adult residents to grow up to six plants; a variety of local ordinances have set a limit of 12 plants per household.

In hindsight, Colorado also should have put better care into its edibles regulations from the beginning — prohibiting cannabis-infused products that will be appealing to kids and ensuring clearer labels, actions that since were executed, he said. Developing powerful pesticide protocols also was highly recommended.

And there were the problems beyond Colorado’s control.

The inability for state-legal marijuana businesses to openly bank is a “terrible system,” he said.

“These are really vexing problems that you’re going to have some challenges on,” he said.

He talked highly of creating a collaborative and transparent system and also the successes which could come because of this.

From a “35,000-foot level,” Colorado has done pretty well from this experiment, Hickenlooper noted.

Health officials haven’t seen a spike in teen use; there hasn’t been a dramatic upsurge in general use or consumption; a collaborative taxation system exists to stamp out the black market and fund programs to address any unintended outcomes; and surveys reveal that residents are increasingly in favor of continuing legalization, he said.

“The United States now has almost 2/3s of the nation — I think it’s 64 percent of the people in America — lives in a state that has either legalized medical or recreational marijuana,” he said. “… I think it’s going to be among the great social experiments of the first half of the 21st century. And the more we work together, the more we can help each other, the better the results will be for our citizens.”

In response to a question about doubt on the federal level, Hickenlooper said he’s optimistic that legal states would not be interfered with by the Trump administration.

“We’re optimistic that President Trump is going to allow the experiment continue,” he said, “but they’re going to closely watch it, I’m sure.”

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Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper: The New Marijuana Consult For Governors


As stated by the Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, you don’t constantly get charge of your legacy. As a guy who once opposed the concept of legalizing marijuana, Governor John Hickenlooper had no idea he’d eventually be a marijuana consult governors of other states would confide in for guidance on how best to deal with marijuana legislation in their particular states.

Per the Los Angeles Times, it was four years ago today that Colorado became the very first state in the country to pass legislation which made recreational marijuana legal. Only hours after this monumental landmark in U.S. marijuana legislation, Governor John Hickenlooper noted a few comical words of warning.

Governor Jerry Brown reached out to Hickenlooper for a consultation on marijuana legalization weeks before California residents were slated to vote on whether or not recreational marijuana would be legalized. Much like the scenario Hickenlooper had been put in, Brown also didn’t support this law.

Hickenlooper usually gives the same – really specific – advice to governors who reach out to him as a marijuana legalization consult. He motivates them to concentrate on marijuana-infused sweets for example brownies, gummy candies, and lollipops. This was the same advice he gave to the governors in Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine which all had joined California in legalization recreational marijuana this year.

“We didn’t control edibles firmly enough in the beginning,” John disclosed during an interview. The Colorado Governor said, there was a spike in the amount of kids being taken to the emergency room for inadvertently consuming marijuana products. In a couple of instances, kids even died.

In recent years, an extensive advertising campaign which concentrates on the risks marijuana edibles can present to kids and teens is launched by the state of Colorado. In the state of Colorado, very specific laws have been passed which require marijuana merchandises to include labels revealing they contain marijuana.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper isn’t scared to admit learning the ropes of recreational marijuana being legal within his state continues to be a work in progress.

Marijuana retailers in the state of Colorado brought in $996 million in sales just last year. This resulted in a turnover of more than $135 million in taxes and fees to the state of Colorado. The selling of marijuana in the state of Colorado is taxed at 10% while the standard sales tax in the state is only 2.9%. John thinks the taxing of marijuana products is still an area that needs some adjusting.

The Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, frequently consults John for guidance, on marijuana legalization. Unlike John, however, Gary was more supportive of the concept of legalizing marijuana.

Per Hickenlooper and other governor where marijuana has been legalized, there continues to be a number of hiccups states must dance about despite marijuana being legal. Specifically, certain federal constraints. John had recently requested that Congress pass legislation to avoid federal regulators from penalizing financial institutes that serve the marijuana industry. Hickenlooper believes it would be good for state-charted banks to be able to bank in the marijuana industry without risking their charter.

The banking conundrum these states where marijuana is legal faces has really made it challenging to execute marijuana sales.

At present, wherever he goes Hickenlooper is followed by the subject of marijuana. His largest concern and sorrow isn’t that marijuana has been legalized, but that a better system wasn’t put in position before it occured.

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The Future Of Legal Marijuana Under New Attorney General Jeff Sessions

The confirmation of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., as the next attorney general introduces the biggest challenge to legalized recreational marijuana to date. The former federal prosecutor’s view about shifting social attitudes toward weed is clear, with Sessions saying last year that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington deciding that marijuana is not the thing that ought to be legalized,” he said in April 2016 at the Caucus on International Narcotics Control. “This drug is dangerous. You cannot play with it. It’s not funny.”

Spokane attorney Frank Cikutovich, who has represented a number of the best profile local defendants in federal marijuana crackdowns, said he takes Sessions at his word.

“He’s of the view that it’s no good, it’s the devil drug,” Cikutovich said. “He could not be more clear about what his position is. Regrettably, he’s got the power to say from this moment. We will begin enforcing the federal law to the letter.”

And that could put everyone involved in the production and sale of marijuana in federal legal difficulty.

Some 56 percent of Washington state voters approved an initiative decriminalizing marijuana in the year 2012 and permitting a closely regulated marketplace.

In the past few years since, business has boomed.

Spokane County marijuana retailers licensed by the state sold $74.1 million worth of legal pot in 2016, according to records released by the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Those sales generated $27.5 million in taxes collected by the state.

Washington and Colorado in 2012 passed the first laws in the country that permitted recreational use of marijuana, although sales didn’t star in the Evergreen State until 2014. That list now includes California, Oregon, Alaska as well as the District of Columbia. This past November, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts passed similar laws and 28 states have legalized the usage of medical marijuana.

On the other hand, the state-by-state move to legalize marijuana consistently has worked under an uneasy understanding with federal authorities. U.S. law still considers marijuana an illegal narcotic on level with methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

The industry propagate after 2013 when the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memorandum declaring that it wouldn’t challenge states on marijuana legalization as long as they put in place safeguards to keep the drug out of the hands of minors and criminals.

Without federal government intervention, marijuana businesses have boomed. A recent report from ArcView Market Research, a cannabis industry research group, called that national sales of legal marijuana could approach $22 billion by 2020. That would mean marijuana sales would outpace revenue generated from the National Football League.

Sam Calvert, founder and owner of Greenstar Cannabis on Division Street, was clearly one of the very first shops to open in Spokane County in 2014. He said he thinks the industry has too much momentum for the brand new administration to quickly dismantle it.

“If (Sessions) does decide to take an aggressive approach, terminate the specific situation through federal enforcement, they’re going to wind up in court,” he said. It doesn’t play into my decision-making right now. I consider it on the peripheral.”

Seattle attorney Douglas Hiatt, who also has defended several marijuana cases in Eastern Washington, called that “wishful thinking.”

“They can’t believe it’s going to be taken away. But I’ve seen it before,” Hiatt said. “The law is crystal clear and we’ve run out of arguments.”

Because Washington’s strict regulations require scrupulous records for folks who grow, warehouse and sell the legal marijuana, federal prosecutors would have all the evidence they need to shut down the industry and prosecute those business owners.

And many shops sell enough marijuana merchandises that are enough to place owners in danger of severe criminal punishments, including 10-year mandatory minimum sentences in federal penitentiary.

“It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” Hiatt said. “If people think they can’t roll this thing up, then they have another thing coming.”

‘An ever-changing determination’

During his confirmation hearings last month, Sessions was asked whether he’d continue to permit states to run under the Cole memo, which basically said the federal government would look the other way on marijuana in the states.

“If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as attorney general,I will certainly review and evaluate those policies, including the original justifications for the memorandum, as well as any relevant data and how circumstances have changed or how they may change in the future,” he wrote.

Nonetheless, he noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and he is dedicated to uphold the law “with respect to marijuana, even though the precise equilibrium of enforcement priorities is an ever-changing determination predicated on the circumstances and the resources available at the time,” he wrote.

That’s a softer position than Sessions once held.

30 years ago, Sessions said that he believed the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot,” according to testimony given to Congress when he was nominated to be a federal judge.

He afterwards said he was joking, however he stays among the sharpest critics of what he considers the dismantling of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign of the 1980s.

Last April, Session said, “Colorado was one of the leading states that began the movement to suggest that marijuana isn’t dangerous. And we’re going to find it, in my opinion, ripple throughout the whole American citizenry. And we’re going to see more marijuana use and it’s not definitely going to be great.”

A group empaneled to counsel Sessions as well as the Trump administration on the marijuana problem comprises 14 prosecutors named by the National District Attorney’s Association. One of them is District Attorney Stan Garnett in Boulder, Colorado.

At their very first meeting, a number of the district attorneys wanted to send letters to governors of states which have approved medical marijuana, telling them to shut those businesses down within 90 days, Garnett told the Boulder Daily Camera last week.

Garnett said he counseled his fellow prosecutors against that move, saying it failed to honor the significance of state and local control.

“I believed that was a particularly unrealistic and ill-advised notion,” Garnett told the Daily Camera. “Legalization has been mainly successful everywhere it’s been tried, therefore it will be a highly unpopular move and difficult to accomplish successfully.”

‘Marijuana to go back underground?’

Individual users would have little to be worried about in the event the federal government takes a brand new, hard line on marijuana enforcement, Cikutovich said.

“The government doesn’t have the resources to go after millions of people,” he said. “But the people in the industry need to be very concerned. They have to be ready to parachute out of the industry immediately if it changes.”

A federal enforcement agent, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said he wouldn’t anticipate immediate raids in the event the Trump administration decides to go after the marijuana industry.

In 2011, local federal authorities cracked down on medical marijuana dispensaries by sending them as well as their landlords letters warning of future legal action if they continued. Four of those businesses continued as well as their owners were indicted.

Sessions “may have huge issues with marijuana, and he may share that,” the law enforcement source said. “But how he would then change the enforcement priorities of the department is purely speculative at this point.”

Seattle lawyer Jeffrey Steinborn, who like Cikutovich and Hiatt has worked for many years to defend marijuana clients, said the success of the industry may be its best defense. And legal marijuana’s best ally could possibl be President Trump, who said during the campaign that marijuana legalization should be left to the states.

“I really believe we should study Colorado and see what’s happening,” Trump told a crowd on Oct. 29, 2015. “I think in terms of marijuana and legalization, it should be a state issue, state by state.”

But if Sessions convinces his boss to turn back the clock to the drug wars of the Reagan era, the industry will adapt, Steinborn said.

“Marijuana can go back underground in the blink of an eye,” he said. “And it will if it has to, because it ain’t going away.”

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