Governors of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska sent an open letter directed toward officials in the Trump administration, urging them to continue the Obama-era “hands off” approach to states with marijuana laws.
Governors in four states have joined together to request that the Trump administration not interfere with states that have passed adult use marijuana sales.
In an open letter dated April 3, the governors asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to maintain a 2013 agreement with the Obama administration, known as the Cole Memo, which advised federal prosecutors to avoid strict enforcement of federal prohibitions on marijuana. The letter requests that Sessions and Mnuchin “engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems.”
“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the four governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”
The governors also stress that federal interference would make banks even more reluctant or refuse to do business with the marijuana industry. Currently guidance from Financial Crimes Enforcement (FinCen), a lead agency at the U.S. Department of Treasury, lays out criteria in which banks and other financial institutions can provide service to cannabis-related businesses.
“Likewise, without the FinCEN guidance, financial institutions will be less willing to provide services to marijuana-related businesses. This would force industry participants to be even more cash reliant, posing safety risks both to the public and to state regulators conducting enforcement activity,” the letter from the governors continues.
The letter was signed by governors of the first four states to legalize marijuana for recreational use: Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington. Voters in four additional states – California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – passed recreational marijuana measures in last November’s election to bring the total number of adult use marijuana states to eight. More than half of U.S. states have passed laws allowing marijuana for medical purposes.
While five of seven U.S. voters oppose a federal government crackdown on marijuana businesses that are following state law, Sessions and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer have made comments in the past months suggesting there could be greater enforcement. With the legal cannabis market expected to reach $22.6 billion by 2021, market experts predict that even resistance from the Trump administration couldn’t slow the market’s double-digit growth rate.
The National Cannabis Industry Association, the nation’s largest cannabis trade association, voiced public support for the approach used by the governors.
“There is no denying that regulated cannabis businesses are preferable to underground markets dominated by gangs and cartels,” said National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith, in a statement. “The regulated markets are creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and taking marijuana sales off the streets. The Trump Administration should be working with the states to ensure the regulated markets are functioning properly and safely, not working against the states to shut them down.”
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