Three weeks since the Cole revocation, what’s happened?


So here we are. It’s been three weeks since Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo effectively rescinding the Cole memo put in place during the Obama administration. For those unfamiliar, the Cole memo was issued as a way to prevent the use of federal resources by U.S. attorneys against those who were in compliance with existing state marijuana laws—medical or recreational. The decision to rescind this memo sent a pretty tangible shock through the industry as we all began to question exactly what this meant. Part of it read that it..

“..simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

Some might argue that this is, seemingly, a way to eliminate the dictation under which U.S. Attorneys used resources, in order to make the job of disrupting crime a little bit easier. Given Mr. Sessions’ historical stances regarding Cannabis, however, this is not how it was received. Many took this as an affront to the immense progress that has been made in our understanding of Cannabis in an attempt to revert back to the melee that was, and very much still is, the War on Drugs.

And given the history of punishment and ridicule towards consumers of Cannabis, not to mention the laughable fabrications of scientific, economic, and cultural information fed to generations of people regarding its use; I’d say we’re a little entitled to some paranoia. It runs deep.

What’s been the response?

A week after this memo, Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner met with Sessions to question him on the issue. Gardner, who wasn’t even in favor of Cannabis legalization, still wanted to ensure that Sessions wasn’t trying to send a message that voter decisions would be completely ignored. Sessions claimed there would not be a change in current policy and that there simply aren’t the resources to begin enforcement which would contradict state marijuana laws. Still not really feeling the love.

On the legislative side, Barbara Lee, a Democratic House Representative of Oakland California, has brought a companion house bill forward to accompany Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act legislation. These two are not only trying to get marijuana removed from the Controlled Substances Act; but are also looking to implement a program that would focus resources towards communities that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs and Cannabis incarcerations especially. There are also three other bills at the federal level aimed at ending the failed effort of this war on a plant. These include H.R. 4779, H.R. 1227, and H.R. 975.

Governor Phil Scott of Vermont has signed into law the legalization of Cannabis. He also pardoned 192 people of their marijuana possession charges; fulfilling a promise he had made in an attempt to “help as many individuals as I could overcome that stigma and the very real struggles that too often go along with it.”

Was Sessions’ move the final push that this industry needed to move forward in the necessarily dramatic way to reform the conversation surrounding Cannabis? I have no way of knowing. But there is certainly the feeling that after all the progress that’s been made over the last several decades, and especially the last two; Sessions’ decision bewildered and angered many who have come to understand that this is something worth studying. There is no convenient time to effect necessary change. Now is the time to move our understanding forward.


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