“Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
That is a statement from our current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Sessions has been adamantly opposed to the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana. This is the same man who said that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “Ok until I found out they smoked pot,” and “It is not disputable that adopting a same-sex marriage culture undermines and weakens marriage.” Clearly this is a man whose priorities are on the fritz but more than that his unyielding determination to dismiss the facts pertaining to the positive contributions to medicine, and the American economy through the cannabis industry is alarming. It threatens the health and livelihood of millions of Americans. The only thing that has stopped him from interfering with state laws has been an amendment to a spending bill.
Can Sessions Intervene?
The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment (formerly Rohrabacher-Farr) states that none of the funds available to the department of Justice can be used “to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In essence, Sessions has no funding to back his desire to intervene with state-run cannabis laws and regulations, so regardless of his rhetoric, there is no backing to his uninformed verbal lashings.
In May of this year, the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment was renewed until September 30th. It is part of a one trillion dollar spending bill. When current president Trump signed the bill he made a statement that left many worried about the future of the industry, “Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This directly conflicts with the previous sentiments that he “100 percent” believes that the issue should be left up to the states, but this wouldn’t be this first time the President has misrepresented himself.
“94% of Americans support medical marijuana and 71% of voters on all sides of the political spectrum oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in the states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana”
During July of this year the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the inclusion of the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment in the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill for the fiscal year 2018 which is up for vote September 30th. Considering 94 percent of Americans support medicinal marijuana and 71 percent of voters on all sides of the political spectrum “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana,” this should be an easy vote, but many, like Rick Fisher, the Executive Vice President at Canndescent, are still unsure.
“Wait and See”
Fisher attended an emergency conference concerning Rohrabacher-Blumenauer potentially not passing the house floor this September. “The underlying premise of the entire dialogue was addressing something that seems to be prevalent in the cannabis industry, which is a, ‘wait and see’ attitude.” According to Fisher, people in the industry are either very active both politically and from a regulatory standpoint or they are not at all proactive and “wait and see” how things turn out. “There are a lot of people that just sort of sit back and see how things develop and the primary message that was being conveyed was that Rohrabacher-Farr is no longer in position where it is just going to be rubber stamped.
Fisher stressed this possibility passionately and emphasized the importance of being vigorous and resourceful so that the progression of the industry continues by “getting in touch with both our local municipalities and otherwise at the house and senate level to try and impact the process.” This, he explained is the best and only way in his opinion, to really make an impact because things are looking grim. “If you look at the house and senate members that are on that committee and who have historically voted what way it basically puts it at a stalemate. As I understand it technically what ends up happening is, it then goes into a private session where there is basically trading that happens in order to get things passed. For example part of the omnibus includes federal spending for x dollars on schools etc. If a rep says, “If we get this much for schools then we’ll vote yes on that.”
“Nothing changes the fact that cannabis is a Schedule I drug. Nothing changes the fact that there is clearly a wide opportunity for federal intervention”
If it comes down to a “this for that” vote Fisher doesn’t believe the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment stands a chance. “If you take a look at the appropriations committee and the rules committee and then ultimately to the house floor, it just didn’t seem like we stood a very good chance at being able to impact the non-renewal so to speak of that amendment.” When asked what his company is doing to make sure his company is not in the line of fire if the amendment does not get passed he explained, “I’d say that we are really focused on being as compliant and in line with what the regulatory expectations are is our best potential deterrent of anything negative happening. We structure ourselves in a way that, the hope is that, if any scrutiny is going to come down on the industry, we hope that the example of how to run compliantly and in line with all expectations from both a state and ultimately a federal level. Nothing changes the fact cannabis is a Schedule I drug. Nothing changes the fact that there is clearly a wide opportunity for federal intervention.”
States Protecting their Rights
Although Fisher’s perspective may be a bleak one, not everyone agrees. Joshua Shelton is an attorney with Winston Wolf Law Firm, and has been practicing in the cannabis sector for eight years. Along with being an experienced attorney in the cannabis sector he started Green Tree Agency, a creative marketing and branding agency that specializes in the cannabis industry. Shelton’s outlook is a bright one. “Nothing that I have seen over the last handful of years, other than Jeff Sessions coming into the office and a handful of seemingly aggressive comments towards the cannabis industry and enforcement where there was no fear before, other than those little grumblings there has been a clear path of acceptance by the federal government. At least of those legally operating.” Shelton asserted. “I really see the states trying to protect their right to regulate these things. I think it is going to be very difficult to have the federal government come in and spend money to enforce against an operation that has been licensed at the state level, licensed at the city level and is paying taxes.”
Marijuana is a Legitimate Industry
Difficult or not, it would not be the first time this administration has attempted to pass laws that are unjust and in opposition to the greater good and ideals of the majority of its citizenry. If this were to happen Shelton argues that there may be a silver lining, “If the government decides to be so audacious to prosecute or enforce against someone who is clearly in compliance at the state level, clearly in compliance at a local level, paying all their taxes, has happy patients, no money going out the side door, that’s the martyr that will maybe push this from—will provide the education to the rest of the world that there are a real businesses. People are doing this the right way. Real money is being spent. Real patients and customers are being served. That could bring the publicity and knowledge to the general industry where the federal government might be forced even, to deschedule it out of fear that they will lose support from the country as a whole.”
DEFENDING Our Plant Everywhere
Perspectives on the September 30th vote for the inclusion of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment obviously vary quite a bit from one person to the other. Something we can take from both perspectives though is the importance of every single one of you. Your voice matters. Action matters. There is power in numbers and knowledge. If there is going to be continued progress and acceptance in the cannabis sectors it is going to take the diligence of many to continue ‘DEFENDING our plant everywhere.’
President Donald Trump and Congress passed a three-month budget resolution that will expire December 8th 2017. This short resolution maintains the current spending levels which guarantees the extension of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protections from the current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. The decision was made in haste to address the needs of those affected by both hurricane Harvey and Irma.