“‘Ello gov’na!” That’s what Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be saying to the heads of weed-legal states if he had the accent of cockney Londoner instead of a southern racist.
The cabinet member, recently on the outs with his boss President Trump, has sent letters to the governors of at least three states with legal recreational cannabis, calling into question the effectiveness of their regulatory system and compliance with federal guidelines.
The most recent recipient of these letters is Governor Kate Brown of Oregon. The letter was just this week obtained by the press though it is dated July 24. The letter raises “serious questions” about Oregon’s legal weed program in suppressing criminal cannabis activity and protecting the safety of state residents.
Citing a report from the Oregon State Police, Sessions says the state has “pervasive illicit cannabis cultivation” and, instead of wiping out a marijuana black market, has created a legal and “effective means to launder cannabis products and proceeds.”
All this, according to Sessions, adds up to a question of whether Oregon is capable of complying with the Cole Memo, a sort of peace treaty between state and federal authorities when it comes to state-authorized cannabis markets.
The mention of the Cole Memo is interesting because it is often thought of as protection for states against federal interference (it prohibits the use of federal funds to police state-legalized marijuana practices), not as leverage for the Department of Justice to use on state governments.
“What is interesting here… is that Sessions’ accusations [are] that states are not complying with the Cole Memo, perhaps suggesting he is fine with the Cole Memo just not the previous administration’s enforcement of it,” John Hudak, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution a drug policy expert, told The Cannabist.
Hudak was actually speaking about the letter Sessions sent to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s office in July. Much of it was copy and pasted into the letters sent to Gov. Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee. But Colorado’s letter had state-specific statistics on cannabis use by minors, as well as emergency room visits and traffic deaths post legalization. Sessions asked Hickenlooper’s office to “please advise as to how Colorado plans to address the serious findings… including efforts to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws.”
Given the recent report on projections for California’s cannabis black market post-legalization, we wouldn’t be surprised to see their governor getting another copy and paste job from the DOJ soon enough.
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