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Congress May Torpedo Jeff Sessions on Marijuana

I am not too concerned about Jefferson Sessions rolling back the Cole/Ogden Memos.

First, medical marijuana is pretty safe. Since 2014, Congress has banned the feds from spending funds on federal enforcement actions against medical marijuana users and businesses who are in compliance with their state marijuana laws. (Section 538 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, Pub. L. 113-235 (Dec.16, 2014).) [More...]

Congress renewed the funding prohibition in Section 542 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, and again for 2017 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017. Sen. Patrick Leahy is working hard on having the funding ban remain in the next funding bill that will be voted on shortly.

Recreational pot could be another story, except it's too entrenched in the states where it's legal and making too much money.

The Director of Colorado's Department of Revenue, Marijuana Enforcement Division, sent out this memo Friday to "marijuana stakeholders." Shorter version: Jefferson Who? We are going to continue with the Cole Memo.

On the one hand, it's true that Sessions has been slowly eroding the progress made during the Obama Administration since he was appointed AG. He rolled back protections in the Holder memo against abuse of charging decisions with respect to mandatory minimums and repeat offender statutes. In November, he announced DOJ would not issue guidance memos in the future and would examine all past memos to determine which should be rescinded. Last month, he rescinded 25 Guidance Memos and said more would be forthcoming.

On the other hand, pot is now such a clear money maker for state tax authorities, they will not take this lightly. Which is why, in Colorado, the most conservative Republicans are outraged about Sessions latest ploy of rescinding the Cole memo. I say ploy because the timing makes me suspicious this is the result of a directive from Trump to find something to deflect attention from the new book that is critical of Trump.

Whatever motivated the about-face, the reaction in Colorado has been swift, particularly among conservative Republicans.

District Attorney George Brauchler,the only DA in Colorado to bring death penalty charges against multiple defendants in recent years, who was going to run for Governor but dropped out and is now running for state Attorney General, tweeted:

This is not an issue about being pro #marijuana. This is an issue about being pro #Colorado. We are best-suited to govern ourselves, not folks who live and work 1500+ miles from here.

Colorado's Republican Senator Cory Gardner threatened to block any DOJ nominations until this is cleared up:

Cory Gardner of Colorado took the Senate floor to issue an ultimatum to Sessions: “I will be putting a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice until Attorney General Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment he made to me in my pre-confirmation meeting with him. The conversation we had that was specifically about this issue of states’ rights in Colorado. Until he lives up to that commitment, I’ll be holding up all nominations of the Department of Justice,” Gardner said. “The people of Colorado deserve answers. The people of Colorado deserve to be respected.”

Gardner also tweeted:

This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.

Via Colorado Public Radio, Colorado's Interim U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said:

Colorado interim U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer appeared in a statement Thursday to indicate his office didn’t intend to make any sudden changes in approach to marijuana enforcement.

Sessions, Troyer said, “directed that federal marijuana prosecution decisions be governed by the same principles that have long governed all of our prosecution decisions. The United States Attorney’s Office in Colorado has already been guided by these principles in marijuana prosecutions.”

Colorado's current Attorney General said "Don't Freak Out":

"Don't freak out,” she said. Her office could fight back if the federal government did prosecute businesses who are complying with Colorado laws. "I think we'll have a strong argument should the federal government try to change the rules," Coffman said.

Another Republican Colorado House member Mike Coffman tweeted that Sessions needs to read the Commerce Clause.

Shorter version: Sessions has just given a leg up to pending bills to remove marijuana from the Schedule of Controlled Substances and from the Control Substances Act entirely. Like Congressman Jared Polis' H.R. 1841,Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Bill , and a Republican bill, H.R. 1227, Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017

If you want to weigh in with your elected officials in Congress and urge passage, NORML has an action alert up here.

The only thing I can think of to beware of is that Donald Trump may put his short fingers into the mix and try to make a crazy deal with Congress like let's pass the federal law ending prohibition, but include a provision there will be a 5, 10 or 15% tax on all marijuana sales that will go to funding the border wall and no other purpose until the wall has been completely built.

Recreational marijuana is already taxed at too high a level in Colorado. There's a 15% state-wide sales tax and a 15% excise tax. While it's a good thing that more than $226 million in taxes were collected this year by Colorado, and that the money goes to education and many other good things, it's also good to keep in mind that too many taxes will just be an incentive to revive the black market.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Also this (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 03:30:19 PM EST
    too many taxes will just be an incentive to revive the black market.

    While I understand why it would probably be better if all pot is taxed in a way that helps schools etc., the thing is once it's legal I have to say I do not even minimally expect the tax free black market to go away.  Nor do I particularly want it to.

    I plan to grow my own once it's legal.  Which is permitted in the recreational states while limited.  I expect others to as well.  I buy my produce from farmers markets because its cheaper and better.

    So you want paymemt in clones? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 03:35:19 PM EST
    Works for me (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 03:57:09 PM EST
    I should probably clarify while do do not expect the black market to go away I do expect it to be almost completely domestic.

    Buy American.

    Parent

    One thing that could kill it (none / 0) (#14)
    by CST on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 07:40:21 AM EST
    I read an article recently that basically described how legalization has actually been putting smaller grows out of business because mass production makes the whole thing so much cheaper.  When you're trying to hide a grow from the cops, bigger is not necessarily better, but when you don't have to hide and all you are trying to do is make a profit - mass production becomes a thing and you get economies of scale.

    That has essentially taken out the bottom on prices, so I'm not sure the black market will be able to compete on price for very long, even with taxes.  That doesn't mean it will go away entirely - and home grow isn't going anywhere.  But I wouldn't necessarily expect your farmer's market to be cheaper.

    Parent

    Not sure (none / 0) (#15)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 07:51:25 AM EST
    The stuff being grown professionally is really expensive.  Until recently "reg" (short for "regular pot") has been available for half the price.  Or even less.  It's still available but most entrepreneurs would rather sell the expensive stuff because of the profit margin.

    One thing thats certain is that widely "legally" grown pot is making it into the black market.  

    Like everything else there will be a million unintended consequences

    Who knows

    Parent

    Btw (none / 0) (#16)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 07:53:18 AM EST
    I, and I am not alone, actually prefer "reg".  I like to smoke joints.  Smoke a joint of the medical stuff and you will sleep for 24 hours.

    Parent
    I agree (none / 0) (#19)
    by leap on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 10:21:36 AM EST
    Living in a state with legal recreational and medical mj, I find the stuff way too strong, knock your socks off, blotto. I've asked at several pot shops--there is one directly across the street from my house, three within a mile-- if I could ever just buy leaf, and, ha ha ha ha! That is the waste product. What they are selling are buds and flowers. But leaf is all I want. A joint rolled in ZigZag. A mild buzz, not the equivalent of late '60s hash. If I could find seed I'd grown my own. Dime-bags of yore consisted of leaf, stems, and seeds, so it was easy to plant your own crop.

    Parent
    Ahh (none / 0) (#20)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 10:33:53 AM EST
    Dime bags.  "Lids" for 15 bucks.

    A confession, I have almost literally smoked pot every day since my first exposure in about 1969, that is its own story, every day.

    I smoke a lot.

    For me and many of our generation I suspect I am just as addicted to the pageantry of rolling and smoking as I am to the high.

    I just don't enjoy it as much in a pipe or a bong or God forbid a vaporizer.

    Parent

    Three days after the first pot shop opened (5.00 / 3) (#25)
    by leap on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 04:54:36 PM EST
    in my town several years ago--and it was the only one in the area for more than a year; now there are many--I decided to go pay it a visit, figuring the initial rush into the doors would have subsided some. There were three sales people in the shop, one behind the pipe-and-papers counter. They all looked happy. At that moment, I was the only customer. I was met by a smiling young fellow, about in his mid-twenties. We chatted for a bit. Turns out his parents run the grow, and he runs the shop. "So, sweetheart, what can I do for you?" I cringed. Sweetheart?
    "Oh, I am interested in the least potent stuff you have."
    "Well, that's all we have left on the shelves. Would you like to smell it?"
    "Sure. That would be cool."
    We stepped down into the main display area, that had walls with many bare shelves! He grabbed a jar filled with "Blueberry
    Grape Ape," which was all the product he had. (There are scores and scores of varieties and strains, all with cutsie or just plain odd names like that. Named by stoners, no doubt.)

    "Here ya go, sweetheart. Have a sniff," as he took off the cap. But..."sweetheart"??
    Oh man, that first whiff truly was a flashback, to 30 years ago! It smelled just like hash, smelled so good! Wow. What a rush of thoughts! Remember, this was the least potent stuff in the place.
    "So what do you think?"
    "Oh man, that first whiff was a real flashback, to 30 years ago!" I exclaimed.
    "We can sure fix you up with some of that, if you'd like, sweetheart."
    I cringed one last time. "STOP calling me that!" I blurted out.
    He looked startled. "Calling you what??"
    "Sweetheart! Stop calling me that!" I wanted to tell him he sounded like a used-car salesman. Or a loan shark. Maybe the same thing. Wonder where he learned that expression, and that it was a cool thing to call a grey-haired old fart? Also, too, I could almost be his grandparent.

    Somewhat timidly he asked, "What should I call you, then, ma'am?"
    "And I am not a ma'am, either! How about my name?"

    Oh dear, he must have thought I needed some of that Blueberry Grape Ape, stat. It was the `sweetheart' that jangled my nerves. Ugh. Coming from a young twerp, at that.

    So I bought a gram, for $18. Then. Now, the price, four years later, is almost a third of that. A gram doesn't seem like much, but, a little bit of that goes a long way. Think hash. Of course, the high THC stuff costs much more.

    I also bought a neat little hand-blown glass water pipe, made by a glass shop right here in town. See? The ramifications of various businesses stemming from this enterprise, and this, in a small town in eastern Washington. Taxes, y'all.

    As I drove out of the parking lot, one of the first vehicles that passed me was a cop on a motorcycle. My initial reaction, still there after 30 years of abeyance, was panic...until I grinned and said out loud, "Ha! This shit is legal!"

    And another dissonant experience is to walk into a quick-stop gas station and see the owner from India, filling a glass display case with bongs, water-pipes, glass pipes, rolling papers. Why, I remember when cops were always raiding head shops. Sheesh.

    Eat it, Jeff Sessions. This ain't going nowhere, sweetheart.

    Parent

    I still prefer leaf, though. (none / 0) (#26)
    by leap on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 05:00:16 PM EST
    and wish I could find some.

    Parent
    My Rolling album (none / 0) (#23)
    by jmacWA on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 03:13:12 PM EST
    I have a never played copy of Super Psychedelics by the Ventures that was laminated by a friend of mine who gave it to me as a birthday present in 1970.  Guy couldn't roll for squat, and when at his place I would always grab the last album on the shelf.  He was quite anal, and his albums were alphabetized.  I am not even sure I ever heard this album, but it is in my hall of fame.

    I think I would have to agree... I would prefer the old school dope that takes a joint or two to get a group in the proper condition.

    Parent

    Nah, too much work (none / 0) (#29)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 11, 2018 at 06:13:18 PM EST
    Said the newbie (none / 0) (#30)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jan 12, 2018 at 09:52:19 AM EST
    I don't have all night (none / 0) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jan 12, 2018 at 06:42:17 PM EST
    Or friends who will join me in this endeavor :) Keeping it quick and dirty. It's a bummer when it's freezing outside too, cuz I don't do it indoors. But one old school "fun twist" (can't call it a joint when you contact vendors here) lasts me about 5 days.

    And there is the lag time between doing it and feeling it. So I run indoors, get into my jammies, and crank up my DVR.

    And a new wrinkle. As you know I started it for sleep because I have a whopper of a sleep disorder, but this last strain I tried has allowed me to not have to take Ambien every night. Some nights I get to skip it now and I have slept my Ambien usual hours and awakened refreshed.

    Can't always find certain strains though. DC has a cannabis seed bank and growing classes. Not legal to grow in Maryland though.

    Parent

    that sounds (none / 0) (#32)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Jan 12, 2018 at 06:46:34 PM EST
    awful.

    feet up in front of the tv is part of the ceremony

    Parent

    I have no ceremony yet (none / 0) (#33)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Jan 12, 2018 at 06:49:35 PM EST
    .75 gram "fun twist" is around $15 here (none / 0) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 11, 2018 at 06:12:25 PM EST
    Depending on the strain.

    There are a couple of "events" downtown every night of the week here where people meet up with vendors.

    If one person smoked a whole joint of the stuff rolling around here, yeah...comatose. Don't wear your green corduroys (Maureen Dowd)

    Everything smells like weed too. I don't think I've been downtown once since moving here and not got a whiff somewhere. Usually you will have numerous whiffs.

    The employee's only room at the back of the wine store with the door ajar smells like a family of skunks lives in there.

    Strange, but it has become very common to me now for the whole world to smell a little weedy.

    Parent

    PS (none / 0) (#21)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 11:36:24 AM EST
    I so fu@king envy you

    Parent
    I found the article (none / 0) (#17)
    by CST on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 08:26:55 AM EST
    Here

    It follows what happened in Washington State thus far.  Also, I thought this part was particularly interesting for the future of the industry:

    ""You can grow all of the THC consumed in the entire country on less than 10,000 acres," Caulkins said. "A common size for a Midwest farm is 1,000 acres.""

    You're absolutely right that the black market is full of "legal" stuff right now, but what is less clear is whether that remains true in places where recreational is legal, or if it's just getting shipped to all the places where it isn't.

    Parent

    Our Attorney General is not too worried, (none / 0) (#24)
    by leap on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 03:38:37 PM EST
    and has been preparing for this for the five years pot has been legal. He's smart and has been winning law suits against the Orange Menace for a year now.

    Our Governor is on the ball with this, too.

    And here is [Last] Week in Weed, a weekly rundown in The Stranger.

    People aren't in a panic here. But then, it's easy to mellow out, if you catch my drift.

    Parent

    My favorite quote, from Colorado Senate Dems: (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by leap on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 04:31:28 PM EST
    That's nice for Colorado (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by CST on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 08:31:22 AM EST
    Here's what the US attorney in Massachusetts had to say:

    "In accordance with the Attorney General's statement today, this office will pursue federal marijuana crimes as part of its overall approach to reducing violent crime, stemming the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantling criminal gangs, and in particular the threat posed by bulk trafficking of marijuana, which has had a devastating impact on local communities.  This does not impact our ongoing, aggressive efforts in other areas, like the opioid crisis.

    As with all of our decisions, we will continue to use our prosecutorial discretion and work with our law enforcement partners to determine resource availability, weigh the seriousness of the crime and determine the impact on the community.  In the spirit of the Attorney General's memo, I intend to meet with  our federal partners to discuss enforcement efforts and priorities.  In the coming weeks I also plan to meet with our local and state counterparts to reinforce our commitment to assisting local communities in this effort.

    As the Justice Department has highlighted, medical studies confirm that marijuana is in fact a dangerous drug, and it is illegal under federal law.  As a result, our office will aggressively investigate and prosecute bulk cultivation and trafficking cases, and those who use the federal banking system illegally."

    We're supposed to have recreational stores opening this summer, and there are already large medical operations in place.

    Follow up prediction (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by CST on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 02:11:51 PM EST
    The feds lay off Colorado, Nevada and Alaska, but come after Massachusetts and California hard.

    Parent
    I fear Oregon could be in the (none / 0) (#27)
    by caseyOR on Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 06:34:36 PM EST
    California Massachusetts group.

    Parent
    I think in the end (none / 0) (#1)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 03:17:32 PM EST
    Money will do the talking.  As you mentioned the powers that be are set to make the most successful black market dealers look like pikers.

    Nationwide marijuana legalization could produce up to $28 billion in yearly tax revenue a new study found.

    LINK

    Facing budget shortfalls it's hard to imagine they will continue to ignore this.

    Not long ago I thought I would never live to see national legalization.  I no longer think so.  If my state can pass medical pot.....
    I am really stunned how quickly opinions on this subject have changed.

    I also think this might be an unexpected benefit of a massive blue wave.

    Jeralyn, since Sessions loves civil forfeiture (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 03:30:49 PM EST
    You don't think he will attempt to go after big marijuana in that fashion?
    Thereby finding funding for his future raids? Is this why he remained such a champion of civil forfeiture?

    Wow (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 03:54:50 PM EST
    I had not thought about that.  Part of me hopes the Confederate Elf tries to seize the entire west coast to sell at auction.

    Parent
    And I had not thought of that:) (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 04:21:29 PM EST
    Will this affect marijuana banking again? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 05:02:15 PM EST
    Will dispensaries be sitting on piles of cash again? Will Sessions try to target that cash in raids?

    Parent
    Maybe those conservative supreme court (none / 0) (#11)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 05:24:53 PM EST
    Guys will need to weigh in on the subject of "States rights"

    Nothing reveals the shameless hypocrisy of people like Sessions better than their situational commitment to states rights.

    The courts commitments might be less situational.  Or not.

    Parent

    I was not aware that the banking issue (none / 0) (#12)
    by Peter G on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 06:54:22 PM EST
    had ever been solved. The Cole (Obama) policy was to exercise extreme restraint in initiating criminal prosecutions. My understanding was that banks were by no means sufficiently reassured by that, and therefore were not extending normal financial services to state-law-compliant growers or dispensaries. I hope I was wrong about that.

    Parent
    I believe (none / 0) (#13)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 07:36:57 PM EST
    You are not wrong

    Parent
    I wonder if (none / 0) (#7)
    by CaptHowdy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 04:03:59 PM EST
    This is even a completely serious effort.

    For all the reasons you mention this would be pretty hard to implement.  It seem to me if it had a negative effect it might be in a state like mine that is just in the preliminary stages of setting things up and facing opposition.  This could give the opposition potentially powerful talking points.

    But in places like most of the west it just seems the horses have left the barn and this is just another head fake to the Trump conservative Christian rubes.  Like another pointless Hillary investigation.