Federal input on pot industry is wise

One of Vermont’s medical marijuana dispensaries is located in Brandon. BRUCE EDWARDS  STAFF FILE

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, responded swiftly last week to the announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Justice Department would be rescinding the Obama-era policy that effectively allowed states to legalize marijuana without federal intervention.

The best protection that Congress had been able to provide to the marijuana business community was the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was passed in 2014.

This directly impacts the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Citing a 2016 report, he criticized Washington state for failing to merge our medical and retail marijuana systems. Asked during a January 4 press conference about Sessions' announcement, Governor Hutchinson said he believes the DOJ and Sessions should distinguish between medical and recreational use when it comes to federal enforcement of existing laws. Eight states, including MA, have legalized recreational use for adults. An amendment to a budget bill that would prohibit the Department of Justice from spending money on marijuana enforcement in states like Colorado that have legalized pot is one idea that is gaining traction among Colorado lawmakers.

"Voters in my state made a decision to be proactive and move forward to recognize that a prohibition isn't going to make marijuana go away - we need to regulate it to make it safer", Moulton said in a statement Wednesday. "The President has previously identified marijuana use within a state as an issue for a state to decide, not the federal government", the members of Congress wrote.

New Frontier Data, a data analytics firm focused on the cannabis industry, forecasts that if legalized on the federal level, the marijuana industry could create an entirely new tax revenue stream for the government, generating millions of dollars in sales tax and payroll deductions.

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MA and other states believed that Obama's wink and a nod with federal law enforcement would be honored by future presidents.

We don't agree. We believe federal oversight - however limited - of this controversial decision to legalize recreational marijuana will only benefit MA residents, who appear increasingly opposed to legalized pot. "I think it should be up to the states, absolutely".

Calling the Sessions memo "a complete reversal of what many of us on the Hill were told" and even calling out Trump for his past remarks on states' rights, Gardner offered a question he might ask Sessions during their meeting: "We were told that states' rights would be protected".

Gardner described a conversation with the attorney general in which he emphasized two themes - states' rights and sticking by one's word - while Sessions played down the significance of the policy shift. "So what the attorney general did is at odds with what the president has said".

There is an enormous cost in terms of law enforcement resources, the criminal justice system and people's lives for marijuana to remain illegal. Sessions called their hard work and thoughtful approach "unnecessary".

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