Washington State Leaders are “Not Messing Around,” Considering their Legal Options Against Sessions “Crackdown” on Cannabis
“We always knew this was possible,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “We’re not messing around.”
Last week something the cannabis industry has been on edge about for months finally happened. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the memos that served as Obama-era federal policies on marijuana laws – giving U.S. attorney’s the green light to prosecute marijuana related cases as they see fit, regardless of state laws. Previously, if a business was compliant with state law, the federal government was taking a hands-off approach.
Sessions has been out for the cannabis industry since taking his seat as the Attorney General last year. However, after creating a task force specifically to find reason to change marijuana policies, Sessions had announced back in November that Obama-era policies would remain in place for the time being. However, that didn’t last long – and lawmakers around the country are far from impressed with this latest move from the head of the Department of Justice.
“The White House is in chaos and they decided to attack the West Coast,” Governor Jay Inslee of Washington told a gathering of reporters and editors at the Associated Press legislative preview. Sessions’ decision, released a few hours earlier, was “based on ideology and politics,” Inslee said.
State AG Ferguson has said that it was too soon to know what the states legal response will be – however he has said that a team of lawyers was already gathered in his office weighing their options. While Sessions announcement does officially repeal the Cole Memo, he did not call specifically for enforcement of laws in states that have legalized. However, that doesn’t mean that wasn’t the aim – because Sessions has made his disapproval of legalization well-known since long before he became the U.S. Attorney General.
“We have almost eradicated the black market” for illegal marijuana sales,” Senator Ann Rivers said. “Why would we go away from that?”
In Washington, legal cannabis sales have generated $300 million in revenue for the state in the last fiscal year through taxes and licensing fees. They are predicting to increase that to $362 million during the current fiscal year – and more than half of those funds go to state funded health care programs. The benefits are numerous – not to mention the law was passed by the will of the voters – which is now the will of voters on a national level according to recent polls.
Leaders and lawmakers in the state of Washington plan to protect their state’s cannabis industry one way or another. The threat that had been looming overhead since Sessions name was put in the ring for Attorney General has become real – but the legal cannabis industry isn’t going down without a fight.