Amid fears that the current White House administration may intrude on state-permitted cannabis programs, lawmakers are drafting up strategies to protect their marijuana businesses from federal prosecution.
The most drastic of these plans come from Colorado, where a bill has been introduced into Legislature that would allow everyone in the recreational marijuana business to switch over their licenses to the state’s medical marijuana program, as reported by the Associated Press.
If passed, the measure would give the roughly 500 licensed recreational weed cultivators and retailers the ability to rebrand themselves as MMJ providers in the hopes that it would shield them from interference from the DEA and other federal agencies. The plan is not without its problems.
For one thing, there’s the major decrease in tax proceeds the state would see. Anyone who made the switch would suddenly pay a lot less in taxes (2.9 percent for medical vs. 17.9 percent for recreational), so it seems likely that many of them would do so and fast. If that happened, the state would see its marijuana tax revenue drop by more than a $100 million, an amount of money they would probably miss.
But the drafters of the bill think that drop in tax dollars would be preferable to a possible annihilation of the recreational marijuana program. “If there is a change in federal law, then I think all of our businesses want to stay in business somehow. They’ve made major investments,” said State Senator Tim Neville, one of the lawmakers who sponsored the bill.
But what if there isn’t a change in federal law? So far, everything from Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding cannabis enforcement is all talk (though it is a lot of talk). And though the White House has delineated a difference between recreational and medical cannabis (a “big difference” according to spokesperson Sean Spicer), the fact remains that under federal law medical marijuana isn’t really any more legal than recreational marijuana and they can go after it just the same.
Meanwhile other states have taken different tactics to protect their cannabis businesses. Oregon lawmakers are trying to pass a bill to ban cannabis stores from keeping data on their customers which could be used by law enforcement agencies. California is also weighing a bill which would block its local law enforcement from assisting federal agencies with investigations of legal cannabis businesses.
Photo via Flickr user Dank Depot