Former Deputy Attorney General James Cole Reflects Back On The Cole Memos

NEW YORK: Pot podcaster Cannabis Economy has released an in-depth interview with Former US Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole whose three memos reset Justice Department guidance regarding federal oversight of legal cannabis.  The conversation is Episode 140 on the Cannabis Economy podcast app on iTunes, Google Play or found through the iTunes Podcast App.

“You can’t prosecute every case involving a violation of federal statute that comes your way,” Cole said, explaining the rationale behind his so-called “Cole Memos.” which advocated for the Justice Department to focus on pursuing international drug cartels rather than cannabis producers in states that had legalized cannabis.

The burgeoning legal cannabis industry is an amalgam of agricultural, manufacturing, retail, medical and pharmaceutical businesses.   While medicinal marijuana has been legal in nearly half of the states in the US for years, recent ballot initiatives aim to legalize both medical and adult-use cannabis.  Many other ballot initiatives are just months away, this coming election day.  Canada has had federally legal medicinal cannabis for fifteen years and is on the precipice of federally legal adult-use cannabis.

Cannabis Economy’s host Seth Adler notes, “The Cole Memos are historic documents, specifically for legal cannabis and for commerce in general.  Jim Cole penned a three-part guidance for a nascent industry.  The guidance focuses explicitly on a working regulatory infrastructure within each legal cannabis state.  Responsible operators are working with state and provincial regulators to ensure compliance, no matter how difficult the task.”

He continues, and “no matter your opinion on Project Claudia- the Toronto dispensary raids from this past week- safe patient access to legal cannabis is paramount.”

Just hours after the Toronto dispensary raids; “Project Claudia,” Adler moderated a panel at the Lift Cannabis Expo with executives from Licensed Producers, Bedrocan and Supreme and the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries.  The panel is Episode 150, released today.

In Canada, unlike Vancouver and Victoria in British Columbia, Toronto does not have a regulatory framework for its dispensaries.  The federal regulatory framework- Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) does not account for dispensaries.  Thus the Toronto dispensaries are in a legal limbo, which isn’t necessarily grey.

So the Lift Cannabis Expo Roots panel had perfect timing recorded live last week just after the raids and available today.  The panelists discussed the impact of the very first Canadian Dispensary on the MMAR (Marijuana Medical Access Regulations) and subsequent MMPR.   The panelists also discussed the upcoming re-write of MMPR in August, and just what the regulatory framework will look like as Canada makes it’s way to legal adult-use cannabis next year.

How the Justice Department Seems To Have Misled Congress On Medical Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Last year, the Justice Department warned Congress that a medical marijuana provision in an appropriations bill could  “limit or possibly eliminate the Department’s ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well.” The “informal talking points,” according to a Justice Department memoobtained by Tom Angell, a legalization advocate and writer for marijuana.com, were “intended to discourage passage” of the provision, which was in fact passed and signed into law.

It turns out that the guidance was wrong. In the memo, written by the chief of the Department’s appellate section and dated Feb. 27 of this year, the Justice Department says the provision does not place “any limitations on our ability to investigate and prosecute crimes involving recreational marijuana.”

Breaking: Obama States Full Support Of Medical Marijuana, Alternative Drug Treatment Models

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  In a CNN special to be aired on Sunday, not only will President Barack Obama state his full support of medical marijuana, he’ll also advocate for alternative models of drug abuse treatment which don’t involve incarceration.

The television special, called “Weed 3,” features CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon who came to support medical marijuana after reviewing the evidence. This time around, he’ll be delving into the politics of medical marijuana research and interviewing President Barack Obama, according to an email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Obama has previously predicted that more states will follow the lead of Washington and Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana, and confirmed that although marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, the Department of Justice will look the other way.

Updated: War on California Medical Marijuana Will Continue, Justice Department Says

CALIFORNIA:  California’s multi-billion medical cannabis industry will remain in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors, despite direction from Congress to cease interfering with state medical pot systems.

In December, the US Congress passed and the president signed a historic amendment that de-funded the Department of Justice’s war on medical pot. Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, yet the Obama Administration had spent an estimated $300 million enforcing the marijuana provisions of federal Controlled Substances Act.

After three months reviewing the amendment, the DOJ told the Los Angeles Times this week that “it did not believe the amendment applies to cases against individuals or organizations.”

The amendment states no DOJ funds may be used to: “prevent [medical marijuana] States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, pos- session, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Members Of Congress Stand Up For California Medical Marijuana Dispensary

CALIFORNIA:  Three congressional lawmakers from California are accusing the U.S. Department of Justice of overreach in an ongoing crackdown against Harborside Health Center, widely considered to be the largest and one of the most well-respected medical marijuana dispensaries in the nation.

“We believe DOJ has overstepped its bounds in the Harborside case,” Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R), Sam Farr (D) and Barbara Lee (D) wrote in a letter last week about U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag‘s effort to shut down the Oakland, California-based Harborside. “We believe DOJ is not acting within the spirit or the letter of the law nor in the best interests of the people who depend on Harborside for reliable, safe medical marijuana.”

The letter notes that public acceptance of medical marijuana has grown nationally, even as federal policy on the substance “stagnates.” To highlight his support, Rohrabacher posed with Harborside’s co-founder and executive director, Steve DeAngelo, at the dispensary.

 

Marijuana Backers Cool With AG Nominee

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Marijuana advocates say they aren’t nervous about Loretta Lynch‘s personal pot politics, even after President Obama’s choice to serve as the nation’s top cop voiced strong opposition to the drug’s legalization this week.

“I not only do not support legalization, it’s not the position of the Department of Justice to support the legalization,” said Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to replace Eric Holder as attorney general, Wednesday at her confirmation hearing.

However, she said the administration’s directive of not targeting pot businesses in states where weed is legal “seeks to try and work with state systems that have chosen to take admittedly a different approach from the federal government.”

The latter statement was seen as good news for marijuana supporters.

 

Obama Predicts Bright Future For Legal Weed

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  President Barack Obama said during a YouTube interview Thursday that he believes more states will consider legalizing recreational marijuana, citing his administration’s hands-off approach to prohibition-ending cannabis laws in Colorado and Washington state.

“What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington, through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana,” Obama said in response to host Hank Green.”The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”

Obama went on to say that he has asked his Department of Justice to examine how nonviolent drug offenders are being treated by the justice system.

Pomos Seeking To Establish State’s First Tribal Pot Operation

CALIFORNIA:  A Ukiah Indian rancheria is in the running to possibly become the site of California’s first tribe-sanctioned marijuana cultivation and distribution operation.

The Pinoleville Pomo Nation is among several tribes engaged in negotiations over a future marijuana-growing operation with Colorado-based United Cannabis Corporation and Kansas-based FoxBarry Farms, LLC, according to the corporations and federal filings.

The two corporations recently entered an agreement under which FoxBarry, which also manages tribal casinos, will distribute United Cannabis branded pot products in California, according to a news release posted on the United Cannabis website and a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The proposed partnerships follow a U.S. Department of Justice announcement last month that tribes — which are sovereign nations — have the authority to legalize marijuana on their lands.

 

Congress Passes Historic Medical Marijuana Protections In Spending Bill

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Congress dealt a historic blow to the United States’ decades-long war on drugs Saturday with the passage of the federal spending bill, which contains protections for medical marijuana and industrial hemp operations in states where they are legal.

The spending bill includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis programs. If the bill is signed into law, it will bring the federal government one step closer to ending raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as stopping arrests of individuals involved with pot businesses that are complying with state law.

“When the House first passed this measure back in May, we made headlines; today we made history,” Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who in May introduced the medical marijuana protections amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), told The Huffington Post regarding the bill’s passage.

“The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws,” Farr added. “This is great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.”

 

How Legalizing Marijuana On Indian Reservations Could End The Prohibition On Pot

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: This week, the Department of Justice announced that it would let Native American tribes grow or sell marijuana on their reservations, even in states where the drug is still illegal. The decision opens the door to pockets of legal marijuana throughout the country, in addition to the growing number of states that have legalized pot or are considering doing so.

There are more than 300 reservations in some 30 states. (Here’s a map.) If a good portion of those tribal governments choose to grow and sell marijuana on their land, then large swaths of the country will have access to legal pot.

It becomes harder and harder for the federal government to list marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — considered the most addictive and dangerous and as bad as heroin — if millions of Americans can buy it at the local pot shop or drive to a nearby reservation for their weed.

In some parts of the country it could be easier to legally buy pot than get an abortion. (Oklahoma and North Dakota, for example.)