The Cole Memo was designed by the Obama administration to provide logical guidelines for smart approaches towards legalized marijuana in states that elected to move forward with legalization. That was four years ago and of course a lot has changed since then. Many more states have now legalized medical marijuana and a few more have been added to the list of recreational marijuana states. SAM, a group that opposes legalization of marijuana, believes that those guidelines set forth by the COLE Memo have been violated and that is cause to shut the industry down.
There is a burden that the cannabis industry needs to accept. Marijuana is a drug, it can be abused and it is up to the business professionals involved in the industry to package it properly, market it and distribute it properly. States must make sure laws are upheld by consumers and businesses. Otherwise, the cannabis industry will be exactly what SAM believes it to be.
SAM stands for Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The name is misleading. SAM calls for the country to maintain prohibition of cannabis despite all of the evidence of the medical properties contained in cannabis. There is also going to be some deviations that violate guidelines and it is easily argued that four years is entirely too small of a sample size. What are your thoughts on the job that the cannabis industry and states have done being responsible with the legal marijuana market?
Last week, governors from Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana, each sent letters to the attorney general defending their respective regulatory regimes, designed to uphold the Cole Memo. That Obama-era memo outlined law enforcement and financial oversight priorities for states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.
On the fourth anniversary of the memo, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a nonprofit group opposed to marijuana legalization, announced it had sent a report to Sessions and other lawmakers detailing how those states have failed to live up to the responsibilities outlined.
Based on its report, “The Cole Memo: 4 Years Later,” SAM recommended that Sessions “take measured action to successfully protect public health and safety. Limited federal resources should be used to target the big players in the marijuana industry who are circumventing (Department of Justice) guidance and state regulations.”
In a phone conference Wednesday, Kevin Sabet, SAM’s president, went further, saying, “We do not want individuals prosecuted — we want the industry to be accountable. This industry — starting from the top — should be systematically shut down.”
The SAM report says that Colorado, Oregon and Washington have failed to comply with seven of the eight guidelines of the Cole Memo, which include preventing access to minors, flow to other states, drugged driving and growing of the plant on federal lands. As a result, Sabet said, the states “are inviting a shift in enforcement.”
In the recommendations from the report SAM says cannabis businesses “are pocketing millions by flouting federal law, deceiving Americans about the risks of their products, and targeting the most vulnerable. They should not have access to banks, where their financial prowess would be expanded significantly, nor should they be able to advertise or commercialize marijuana.”
The SAM report echoes some of Sessions’ own claims in recent letters to the governors of the four states, stating, “States with legal marijuana are seeing an increase in drugged driving crashes and youth marijuana use. States that have legalized marijuana are also failing to shore up state budget shortfalls with marijuana taxes, continuing to see a thriving illegal black market and are experiencing an unabated sales of alcohol… State regulatory frameworks established post-legalization have failed to meet each of the specific DOJ requirements on controlling recreational marijuana production, distribution, and use.”