Home – Weed State Govs Ask Feds To Keep Lenient Pot Rules

Weed State Govs Ask Feds To Keep Lenient Pot Rules

Governors from the four states that have legalized recreational marijuana use asked the Trump administration last week to keep in place federal marijuana policies that have served as the foundation for legalization efforts in their states.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington – all Democrats except for Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican turned Independent – ask to retain a 2013 agreement known as the Cole Memo, which laid out priorities for federal prosecutors in states where marijuana had been legalized for recreational use. They also seek retention of a guidance issued to banks regarding marijuana financials by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).


The Cole Memo, named for former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, suggests that federal prosecutors refrain from strict enforcement of federal prohibitions on marijuana in deference to state law. It also lays out eight specific issues of greatest concern for federal officials, including keeping pot away from minors and preventing impaired driving.


“We understand you and others in the administration have some concerns regarding marijuana,” the governors write. “We sympathize, as many of us expressed apprehensions before our states adopted current laws. As governors, we have committed to implementing the will of our citizens.”


Tossing aside the Cole Memo, they said, would only “produce unintended and harmful consequences” by reinvigorating the illegal weed market and increasing criminal activity “in both our states and our neighboring states.”


Governors expressed similar concern about the FinCen guidance, which details how banks may or may not work with funds from legal marijuana businesses. Due to concerns about potential federal penalties – including the loss of their charter – for doing business with weed dispensaries, most banks have simply opted to reject those entities as customers. Without the federal guidance, the governors wrote, banks would be even less willing to work with legal marijuana companies.


The Trump administration has sent differing signals on how it intends to proceed in regard to marijuana. AG Sessions has been vocal in his opposition to marijuana, but President Trump has indicated his willingness to let states manage their own weed issues. At least two of the four governors – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper – have said they will seek out meetings with federal officials to obtain clarification on how they plan to proceed. (THE HILL [WASHINGTON DC], SEATTLE TIMES, GOVERNING)