Tag: legalization

GOP Senator Offers Bill to Legalize Cannabis in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bill to legalize marijuana in Kentucky was introduced Wednesday by a Republican lawmaker who touted the value of cannabis as a revenue source for a cash-strapped state government.

Sen. Dan Seum, a member of the Senate’s GOP leadership team, said his bill would legalize marijuana use for adults 21 or older. He said it’s time for Kentucky to join the marijuana legalization trend taking root elsewhere.

“It’s already out there, it’s always very available to anybody who wants it,” the majority caucus chair said in an interview. “So you legalize it, you tax it and the state gets the new revenue.”

“It gives people the right to conduct their lives as they so choose, to partake in a product they’re already partaking in, and we tax it and we generate revenue.”

Sen. Dan Seum

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Taxing the production, processing and use of marijuana could generate between $100 million and $200 million yearly — revenue that Kentucky badly needs, Seum said.

Seum’s bill was introduced a day after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin proposed spending cuts of more than 6 percent across most of state government. Lawmakers also are looking at shoring up the state’s woefully underfunded public pension systems.

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But other prominent senators quickly dashed the prospects that Kentucky could soon embrace legal toking.

“Dan and I have known each other for 20-plus years, but this is one area that I just don’t agree with him on,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters.

Stivers said he thinks the bill lacks support to pass the GOP-led Senate.

“I don’t believe that marijuana is a substance that we should be legalizing,” he said.

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Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, also said he opposes the bill. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, raised concerns about the threat of impaired driving by marijuana users.

Seum said such drivers would face punishment just like other impaired drivers.

He said that decriminalizing marijuana would benefit police. “It frees a tremendous amount of money up in law enforcement to go after the violent people,” he said.

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Seum said legalizing marijuana would create jobs in production, processing and retail. And he gave a libertarian-leaning justification, too.

“It gives people the right to conduct their lives as they so choose, to partake in a product they’re already partaking in, and we tax it and we generate revenue,” Seum said.

Seum’s son, Dan Seum Jr., joined in a lawsuit last year that challenged Kentucky’s criminal ban against medical marijuana. The ban survived an initial court test when a circuit judge ruled that the state has a good reason to “curtail citizens’ possession of a narcotic, hallucinogenic drug.”

Can Landlords Ban Legal Cannabis? Here’s What the Law Says

Adult-use recreational cannabis is scheduled to be made legal across Canada this summer. But not everyone’s celebrating. As legalization looms nearer, some apartment-dwellers are prepping for legal battles over tenant rights to follow. Not all tenants are looking forward to legalization and are not welcoming to the idea of legalized cannabis being smoked indoors.

With the Cannabis Act, the right to smoke cannabis, will be protected in a tenant’s right to reasonable enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean that landlords can’t impose restrictions.

Steven Lebow is one such tenant. A renter in Toronto, he’s tangled with cannabis-smoking neighbours in his building, who used heavily enough for Lebow to be able to smell the smoke from inside his apartment. (He even complained about getting a secondhand high.)

“It got to point that the cleaning help refused to clean the hallway as the smell was so strong,” Lebow told Leafly, noting that his complaints didn’t bring the results he hoped for.

“I tried with six different property managers over the course of several years,” he said. “Finally a strangely worded notice went out saying that there have been complaints about the odor of marijuana permeating the halls and units and asking if anyone has a medical reason for using it.”

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He never got an answer, and it wasn’t until his neighbours moved that the problem was resolved.

If Lebow’s neighbour’s were using cannabis medicinally, that would trump his right to take action. In a situation like Lebow’s, if smoke from an adjacent apartment caused damage or health concerns, he could argue about the reasonable enjoyment of his apartment.

So long as the method of consumption doesn’t present a risk to other tenants or to the building, the landlord’s right to restrict tenant behaviours is limited.

“Your right to do something in your unit even if it’s otherwise lawful extends only as far as it doesn’t have a substantial impact, or to use the legal term, doesn’t substantially interfere with the rights, privileges of the other tenants,” said Tom Halinski, a partner of the Municipal and Land Use Planning Group at Aird Berlis.By “substantial interference,” Halinski means any harm to other tenants or damage to the unit itself.

However, things get trickier when health is involved.

“You could theoretically have the cannabis user who is doing it for medical reasons and a person next door who perhaps has a medical condition that’s being made worse by the [smoke] and that’s tough,” Halinski said. “It would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.”

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Such clashes of rights seem to be a growing concern, as studies have shown that cannabis allergies not only exist but are on the rise. Beyond these are breathing concerns from smoke inhalation, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis.

When the Cannabis Act passes, the right to smoke cannabis, whether recreationally or medicinally, will be protected in a tenant’s right to reasonable enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean that landlords can’t impose restrictions or recommend ways to adapt the apartment.

If there’s concern about smoke damage or harm to other tenants, landlords could suggest tenants use concentrates or other smokeless methods.

“We might suggest, and have suggested, that weather stripping be installed under the door and, if need be, around the door of the complainant so that nothing’s coming in,” said Lesley Larion, a superintendent for a Toronto apartment building. “We accommodate the same requests for people who are offended by cigarette smoke, so I know what way it’s treated.”

Landlords could also restrict the ways in which cannabis can be consumed inside the apartment. If there’s concern about smoke damage or harm to other tenants, landlords could suggest tenants use concentrates or other smokeless methods.

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“In principle, that’s not really that different from saying, ‘Yes you can have a dog in your unit, but it has to be walked on a leash,” said Halinski.

But so long as the method of consumption doesn’t present a risk to other tenants or to the building, the landlord’s right to restrict tenant behaviours is limited.

The federal government will be leaving legislation for cannabis and housing to provincial governments to regulate through their own landlord and tenant boards.

Currently the Residential Tenancies Act does not contain specific legislation regarding cannabis or cannabis smoking. However, once the Cannabis Act passes, that could mean that the Landlord Tenant Board could develop new and different rules.

The federal government has not indicated they will be developing any legislation for cannabis and housing, and will be leaving it up to provincial and territorial governments to regulate through their own landlord and tenant boards.

Hamilton is already preparing for these concerns, promising to look at options such as an all-encompassing smoking ban for social housing through CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) by this spring. However, director of operations Ivan Murgic told the CBC that their solution could be as simple as asking any offending tenants to moderate their usage or to avoid smoking on balconies near neighboring windows.

Kentucky Medical Cannabis Bill Faces Uphill Fight

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky touted its potential on Thursday as a viable alternative to ease the state’s addiction woes from opioid painkillers.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes joined other advocates at a state Capitol event to promote a medical cannabis legalization bill introduced this week in the state House.

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Advocates included Eric Crawford, who had a plastic bag filled with prescription bottles in his lap as he sat in a wheelchair. He suffered spinal cord injuries in a vehicle crash 24 years ago, and many of the prescriptions were to combat pain and relax muscles.

“I am a ‘no’ on medicinal marijuana at this time, pending further scientific information that could change my mind.”

Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown), Senate Majority Floor Leader

Crawford, who lives in Mason County, said Kentuckians who want to use medical marijuana should not have to fear being treated as criminals.

“It’s not for everybody to run out and get high,” he said. “You’re helping sick people.”

The bill resulted from work by a task force that Grimes led. The group heard “heartbreaking” stories from people whose suffering could be eased by medical marijuana, she said.

“Kentuckians are begging for an alternative to opioids and prescriptions,” Grimes said. “The natural remedy is what they are asking for to help with their illness and ailments.”

Kentucky continues to be ravaged by opioid-related addictions. Kentucky had more than 1,400 drug overdose deaths in 2016, a 39 percent increase from three years ago.

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Grimes, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2014, noted that 29 states have legalized medical cannabis. Grimes called on the Republican-led legislature to make Kentucky the next state to join the list.

“Today is a real gut check for every member of the General Assembly,” she said. “Will they stand up for the citizens of Kentucky or are they merely going to sit in silence?”

The legalization bill’s lead sponsor is Rep. John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg.

Medicinal cannabis advocates face a tough challenge. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer later predicted such a bill wouldn’t garner enough votes to pass the Senate.

“I am a ‘no’ on medicinal marijuana at this time, pending further scientific information that could change my mind,” said Thayer, R-Georgetown.

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“There’s still a stigma around marijuana as a gateway drug,” he added.

Kentucky’s ban on medical marijuana survived an initial test in court last year, when a circuit court judge ruled that the state has a good reason to “curtail citizens’ possession of a narcotic, hallucinogenic drug.”

The ruling came after three people sued the governor and the attorney general and asked a judge to throw out the ban because “denying sick people safe medicine” is unjust.

New Jersey Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Legalize Cannabis

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey governor-elect Phil Murphy doesn’t succeed Chris Christie until next week, but already his fellow Democrats have introduced legislation to achieve one of his campaign promises, legalizing marijuana.

Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced the measure allowing the recreational use of marijuana by those 21 and older on Tuesday, the same day the new session of the Democrat-led Legislature convened.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for the federal government, especially without local law enforcement, to close it down.”

Sen. Nicholas Scutari

The Justice Department last week overturned Obama administration guidelines that federal prosecutors shouldn’t interfere with states allowing people to legally use cannabis, but doesn’t change anything for New Jersey, Scutari said.

“We’re still going to move forward,” he said. “I think it’s going to be difficult for the federal government, especially without local law enforcement, to close it down.”

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Murphy campaigned and won in November on a promise to legalize recreational marijuana. He has said legalization could bring in roughly $300 million in new revenue. New Jersey already has a medical cannabis program.

Christie, a Republican, has been a vocal opponent of legalization, referring to the prospect of tax revenue from marijuana as “blood money.”

The legislation is identical to a measure introduced in the previous session that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana for those at least 21. It permits possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solids, 72 ounces in liquid form, 7 grams of concentrate and up to six immature plants.

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The legislation would establish a Division of Marijuana Enforcement, charged with regulating the industry. The legislation also would establish a sales tax on marijuana that would rise incrementally from 7 percent to 25 percent over five years to encourage early participation, Scutari said.

The public seems to be behind the effort. A September 2017 Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of residents approved of marijuana legalization. The poll surveyed 1,121 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.

Eights states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. Vermont’s Legislature this week gave final approval to a measure legalizing marijuana, and the governor has indicated he would sign it.

California Bill Would Ease Erasure of Cannabis Convictions

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Democratic lawmaker wants to make it easier for Californians with marijuana convictions to reduce or erase their records as the state moves into the next phase of legalized cannabis.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require county courts to automatically expunge eligible records. It’s one of several efforts to build on the choice California voters’ made to legalize marijuana despite fresh threats from the federal government.

The Drug Policy Alliance estimates more than 100,000 people are eligible to have their records changed.

Voters approved the ability to wipe criminal marijuana conviction records in 2016 as part of Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana and retroactively erased and reduced some cannabis-related criminal penalties from felonies to misdemeanors.

Existing law requires people with convictions to initiate the process themselves. But many people don’t, either because they’re unaware it’s an option or because it can be complicated and costly. As of September 2017, around 5,000 people had applied for a change to their records, according to state data. That’s a fraction of the people that experts estimate are eligible.

The bill would “give folks who deserve it under the law the fresh start they’re entitled to,” Bonta said, adding that cannabis convictions have disproportionality affected young minorities.

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Recreational marijuana became legal in California last year, and on Jan. 1 it became legal for licensed dispensaries to sell it to non-medical patients.

Another proposal that stalled last year would restrict state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal efforts to crack down on anyone growing or selling cannabis legally under state law.

Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles introduced the bill last year amid tough talk about marijuana from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’, but it did not advance as the state Legislature waited to see what the U.S. government would do. He hopes to see it move forward now that Sessions has made more concrete threats.

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The U.S. Justice Department announced last week it’s halting an Obama-era policy to take a hands-off approach toward states that have legalized marijuana, still illegal under federal law. That could lead to increased prosecutions of marijuana sellers and growers, although it’s unclear how aggressive federal attorneys will be. More than half of states have legalized or decriminalized the drug and lawmakers in those states pledged forcefully to defend their policies.

“California overwhelmingly sent a message to the federal government stating that their cannabis-centric ‘war on drugs’ should not be waged here,” Jones-Sawyer said in a statement. “State resources that are paid by tax dollars should not be used to disrupt lawful businesses.

Laura Thomas, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said she talks to many people who are unaware they can eliminate their past convictions under the new law. She estimates more than 100,000 people are eligible to have their records changed.

Bonta provided no cost estimate for what his proposal. It would require county courts to identify eligible convictions, change the records and then notify people of the changes.

‘Whatever They Throw at Me, I’ll Figure It Out’: Abi Roach, Grey-Market Cannapreneur, Preps for the Legal Future

Abi Roach lives her life on the edge of the law. As the founder of Toronto’s popular cannabis lounge the Hot Box Café (tagline: “Serving potheads since ah…we forgot”), she’s become exceptionally familiar with the grey zones of current marijuana legislation.

“That’s the highlight of my life, to have the freedom to be me and make my customers happy by giving them what I love.”

“I’ve lived my life and operated this business by the white-grey line of the law,” Roach tells Leafly. “Whatever they throw at me, I’ll figure it out. Nothing I’ve ever done has been legal and nothing I’ve ever done has been illegal. Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

The cannabis advocate and business owner spends a lot of time talking to local politicians and lobbying for the rights of cannabis users. It’s a role she stepped into out of necessity nearly two decades ago when she opened her first head shop.

Now, Roach runs a mini empire that includes Hot Box, a hydroponic store she co-runs next door, Spliff magazine, and a bud-and-breakfast and tour company in Jamaica. Unsurprisingly, she’s also a member of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association. And as Canada moves towards the legalization of cannabis, Roach suspects her overflowing plate will only get fuller.

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From Street Fairs to a Kensington Storefront

Roach’s introduction to the world of cannabis started with hemp jewelry. Originally from Israel, Roach moved to Canada with her family as a tween, after her dad was offered a job in computer engineering. While attempting to assimilate to Canadian culture, she changed her name to Abi, which rhymed with her real name, and was partially inspired by the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. (The Roach part, also not her real name, came later.) Though she knew little English upon arriving in her new country, Roach says she picked it up in a matter of months, and now has no trace of an accent.

After regularly getting busted by the cops for illegally hawking her wares, Roach became a roaming kiosk.

As a teenager, she grew bored of her remote neighbourhood, so on weekends she’d head to Queen Street, which was a hub of stylish independent boutiques and popular bistros. There, she met a group of rogue vendors who’d illegally sell their wares on the corner of Queen and Soho. It didn’t take long for Roach to discover her entrepreneurial spirit, setting up a blanket on the street corner and hawking handmade jewelry. She soon learned about hemp, through other vendors who used the material to macramé necklaces and bracelets. Roach quickly cottoned on to the fiber’s other uses, thanks to a vendor named Robin Ellins, who now owns the Friendly Stranger head shop.

“I used to vend beside him and learned from him all about the informational side of cannabis,” she says.

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After regularly getting busted by the cops for illegally hawking her wares, Roach became a roaming kiosk. She’d show up at concerts, raves, and events with her jewelry, and often cannabis, to sell or barter. Sometimes, she’d swap her goods for an interesting story.

“It helped me perfect my retailing art over the years,” she says.

After years of unconventional hustle, Roach eventually went to art school, followed by a stint studying audio engineering. As the only women in her class, Roach felt isolated and decided it wasn’t the path she wanted to follow.

Roach now runs a mini empire that includes Hot Box, a hydroponic store she co-runs next door, Spliff magazine, and a bud-and-breakfast and tour company in Jamaica.

When she learned about a subsidized business program through Jewish Vocational Services, she applied and got accepted. Her pitch was for a music promotions company, but Roach mainly wanted to learn how to write a business plan.

After she completed the program, she took out a university fund her parents had set up in Israel and used it, along with her business plan, to apply to a bank for a government co-sign loan to start a business. She decided that business would be a head shop, since there weren’t many in the city at the time. To her surprise, the bank approved her pitch.

“I was totally open about what I was going to do, which was sell bongs and pipes and rolling papers,” she says. “They gave me the loan.”

In 2000, Roach-A-Rama was born. The head shop was located on a sleepy street in Kensington Market. After a discouragingly slow year, Roach was ready to close and find a new path, but a storeowner around the corner on Baldwin Street asked if she would be interested in sharing his space. She decided to give it another shot.

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The new location proved to be blessing, with a spike in sales and customers. In the two years she worked out of the Baldwin location, she visited Jamaica and Vancouver, regions that had a more relaxed attitude towards smoking cannabis in public spaces.

“I went to [Vancouver cannabis lounge] Blunt Brothers and I was so impressed you could just show up, bring your weed, and smoke it,” she says.

When her retail-space partners announced they’d be pulling out of the lease with two weeks’ notice, Roach sprung into action. She applied for a food license, renamed her business The Hot Box, and turned the space into a lounge, which would eventually move to its current location on Augusta.

Fighting for Space to Safely Smoke

These days, Roach spends a lot of time meeting with local politicians about how Ontario’s cannabis legislation will affect businesses in the city. As it currently stands, the Ontario government will have a monopoly over cannabis sales, with all privately owned dispensaries and cannabis lounges deemed illegal.

“By eliminating lounges, you’re pushing people into more dangerous situations. You need us to stay open.”

Roach is working hard to get the message out that cities need private spaces for people to smoke their cannabis. She says the government isn’t keeping the streets safer by removing cannabis lounges, since they’re much more than places to hang out and consume weed.

“We also provide education, and by eliminating lounges, you’re losing that aspect of it,” she says. “You’re pushing people out into the streets and alleys, and their cars. You’re pushing people into more dangerous situations. You’re creating an unwelcoming environment for tourists and an uncomfortable home situation for families. You need us to stay open.”

Ontario recently passed its Cannabis Act with no amendments—any dispensaries operating illegally can face fines up to $1 million. As for cannabis lounges, the topic remains in bureaucratic limbo. The province has generally addressed cannabis in Bill 175, all-encompassing legislation that includes a prohibition on smoking in public places. Since lounges fall under that category, smoking cannabis inside one will technically be breaking a by-law.

Roach says the City of Toronto moved a motion that would give the Board of Health time to examine the impact cannabis lounges have on public safety.  Until that happens, nothing will change, and Roach appears unbothered when talking about how these impending changes will affect her business.

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“Everything takes time,” she says. “Even for them to come and hand out fines, that will take time. And there are loopholes we can use to get around—but I’m not going to reveal anything like that.”

As for the future, Roach plans to continue fighting for the rights of cannabis users while expanding her brand. Although she describes her business as “one of these stupid companies that never took anyone’s money and has built everything from nothing,” she suspects that will change over time.

“Now we’re on a different level and I’m ready to find the right person who wants to invest in this brand,” she says. “Our next mission is to find that perfect union.”

If she had to do it all over, there’s nothing Roach would do differently. When asked about career highlights, she says everyday is a highlight because she simply loves what she does.

“I can do whatever crazy things I want to do,” she says. “There is no board, or boss to tell me what to do. That’s the highlight of my life, to have the freedom to be me and make my customers happy by giving them what I love.”

Vermont House Passes Adult-Use Cannabis Bill

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s House of Representatives has signed off on legislation that would allow adults 21 years old or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow cannabis at their homes.

The legislation would make the Green Mountain State the latest to legalize the recreational use of marijuanaThe Burlington Free Press said the bill, approved Thursday night, would not create a legal market for marijuana and would not impose any taxes.

The measure will have to return to the Senate for another vote. Senate leaders have said a vote could come next week.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said he’d sign the legislation.

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House lawmakers spent much of the day Thursday, with a break during Scott’s State of the State speech, debating the proposal, which was passed by the state Senate last June. The debate took place with the backdrop of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding a policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country.

Throughout the debate in the Statehouse, the full House rejected a series of Republican-proposed changes. The first proposal that was rejected would have delayed implementation of the law a year, until July 1, 2019. Other amendments focused on what the opponents of the underlying proposal said were ways to protect public safety.

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But proponents said they felt those issues were addressed in the existing legislation.

It was expected House lawmakers would give final approval to slight changes to the original bill.

Alaska Authorities Vow to Fight Feds on Legal Cannabis

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said he wants to prevent federal overreach after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended an Obama-era policy Thursday that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states like Alaska.

Walker said in a statement that he’s committed to upholding the will of Alaska voters, who legalized recreational cannabis use in 2014. He said he would work with the Justice Department and the state’s Republican congressional delegation—which has cast cannabis as a states’ rights issue—to prevent federal overreach.

Alaska’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, called Sessions’ announcement ‘disruptive’ and ‘regrettable.’

Spokesman Jonathon Taylor said Walker and state Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth were evaluating possible options for doing that. Lindemuth said her office has a duty to uphold and implement state law.

Alaska’s senior U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski, said she had asked Sessions to work with states and Congress if he thought changes were needed. The Republican called his announcement “disruptive” and “regrettable.”

The state, in setting up its marijuana industry, drew guidance from a memo from President Barack Obama’s administration that limited federal enforcement of the drug, as long as states prevented it from getting to places it was still outlawed and kept it from gangs and children. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

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Sessions said the previous guidance “undermines the rule of law” and said U.S. prosecutors in the states where cannabis is legal could decide which marijuana activities to prosecute.

Alaska’s Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth said her office has a duty to uphold and implement state law.

It was not immediately clear how Alaska U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder would respond. His office referred questions to the Department of Justice press office.

Marijuana industry advocates said Sessions’ decision creates confusion and flies in the face of a growing legalization movement.

Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel with the Marijuana Policy Project, said prosecutors previously had discretion. But there is a new attorney general, “who I guess wants to reverse the course of history or something,” he said.

Jane Stinson, a part owner of the retail marijuana shop Enlighten Alaska in Anchorage, worries about the potential effect on her business, which had been looking to grow and is negotiating a lease for another building.

Sessions’ decision feels vindictive and unreasonable, she said.

Washington State Vows to Defend Cannabis From Federal Crackdown

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee was quick to defend his state’s legal cannabis industry in the wake of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision Thursday morning to rescind the Cole memo, an Obama-era Justice Department guideline that set a policy of federal noninterference with legal-cannabis states.

“As we have told the Department of Justice ever since I-502 was passed in 2012, we will vigorously defend our state’s laws against undue federal infringement.”

WA Governor Jay Inslee

“In Washington state we have put a system in place that adheres to what we pledged to the people of Washington and the federal government,” Inslee said in a statement. “We are going to keep doing that and overseeing the well-regulated market that Washington voters approved.”

“Make no mistake,” Inslee added. “As we have told the Department of Justice ever since I-502 was passed in 2012, we will vigorously defend our state’s laws against undue federal infringement.”

Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general and a frequent courtroom opponent of the Trump administration, joined Inslee in that promise, pledging “to vigorously defend the will of the voters in Washington state.”

In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan, a former US attorney, said she would instruct the Seattle Police Department not to cooperate with federal cannabis enforcement.

“Federal law enforcement will find no partner with Seattle to enforce the rollback of these provisions.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan

“Let’s be clear: Our Seattle Police Department will not participate in any enforcement action related to legal businesses or small personal possession of marijuana by adults,” she said in a statement. “Federal law enforcement will find no partner with Seattle to enforce the rollback of these provisions.”

It would be difficult for federal agencies to pursue action against legal cannabis businesses without the aid of local law enforcement, as they depend heavily on joint task forces, but even without local cooperation, federal prosecutors could easily target individual businesses. However, some members of Washington’s legal cannabis industry say they’re more concerned about what this means for banking.

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Ian Eisenberg, owner of well-known Seattle cannabis retailer Uncle Ike’s, said of course he was worried about criminal prosecution but was “most worried about how Salal will react.”

Salal Credit Union, one of the first financial institutions to work with the cannabis industry, now holds close to $40 million in cannabis assets, including those of Uncle Ike’s. Jeremy Moberg, president of CannaSol Farms, a state-licensed cannabis grower in Eastern Washington, echoed those concerns.

“I’ve kind of moved off cash and I’m all in the bank now. I’m kind of worried,” he said, “that my accounts could be frozen.”

Enforcement of federal cannabis laws in the absence of the Cole memo could vary greatly depending on policy priorities of individual US attorneys.

Sheryl Kirchmeier, Salal’s senior vice president of marketing, said there was no reason to worry just yet. “At this time, it’s business as usual. We’re really just waiting to see what potential impacts this may have, if any,” she said. “We’re still fully supportive of our members and wanting to the best for them.”

At the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, it also appears to be business as usual. Many licensees are concerned that the Justice Department could compel the agency to release licensing records. The agency’s spokesperson, Brian Smith, said they were deferring to the governor’s office for an official statement, but he offered licensees a bit of assurance about day-to-day operations.

“Our director, Rick Garza, met with marijuana licensing staff earlier this morning,” he told Leafly. “He told them that if they hear questions from licensees, that they are to tell them that nothing has changed. [That] we will continue to adhere by the Cole memo, that we’ll keep processing their applications, that deadlines facing licensees still apply.”

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As Leafly has reported, enforcement of federal cannabis laws in the absence of the Cole memo could vary greatly depending on policy priorities of individual US attorneys. The US attorney for the Western District of Washington, Annette L. Hayes, did not respond to a request for comment. An assistant for US Attorney Joseph H. Harrington, of the state’s Eastern District, said that her office had been instructed to direct all media inquiries to the DOJ’s national press office.

How federal enforcement would unfold in Washington is still anyone’s guess, although it’s worth noting that Harrington, in the Eastern District, was recently promoted to interim US attorney by Sessions himself, while Hayes is a holdover from the Obama era.

Despite being in Harrington’s district, which tends to be a more conservative area of the state, CannaSol’s Moberg isn’t ready to panic yet.

“Everybody’s freaking out. I’m not freaking out. Should I be? It’s hard to take the Trump administration very seriously. If it was Obama doing something like that, it would be like, ‘Holy shit, what changed?’—or any other president.”

Politicians Outraged: Sessions Move ‘Trampled the Will of the Voters’

This morning brought news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding the Cole memo, the Obama-era policy that protected US states with legal cannabis from federal prosecution. In the wake of the news, numerous politicians, activists, and industry insiders weighed in via Twitter, interviews, and public statements. Here’s a collection of what’s been said.

Cory Gardner, US Senator from Colorado:

“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. (President Donald Trump) had it right. This must be left up to the states.”

Gardner tears into Sessions move on Senate floor earlier today: 

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Keith Ellison, US Representative for Minnesota:

“The war on drugs didn’t stop drug usage; it just ruined a lot of lives. Jeff Sessions is reviving it because he believes in using the criminal justice system as an instrument of racial and economic control of poor people and brown people.”

Jay Inslee, Washington State Governor: 

“Today’s forthcoming announcement from Attorney General Sessions is the wrong direction for our state. It is also disrespects Washington voters who have chosen a different path for our state. I am especially frustrated that this announcement comes after Sessions has refused offers from Attorney General Ferguson and myself to meet with him to discuss these policies in person, after he has disregarded the input that we and other state leaders have provided to his department.”

Bob Ferguson, Attorney General for Washington State:

“I am disappointed and troubled by reports that AG Sessions plans to abandon the current federal policy on marijuana—a policy that respects states’ rights and focuses federal enforcement on key, shared areas of concern. Over the past year, Sessions has demonstrated a stunning lack of knowledge about our state’s marijuana laws. If reports are accurate, Sessions is changing policy after refusing multiple requests for a meeting from Governor Jay Inslee and myself. I pledge to vigorously defend the will of the voters in Washington State.”

Earl Blumenauer, US Congressman from Oregon:

“This is outrageous. Going against the majority of Americans—including a majority of Republican voters—who want the federal government to stay out of the way is perhaps one of the stupidest decisions the Attorney General has made. One wonders if Trump was consulted—it is Jeff Sessions after all—because this would violate his campaign promise not to interfere with state marijuana laws. It’s time for anyone who cares about this issue to mobilize and push back strongly against this decision.”

Ron Wyden, US Senator from Oregon:

“Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies. Now he’s breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. Once again the Trump administration is doubling down on protecting states’ rights only when they believe the state is right. Opening the door to go after legal marijuana businesses ignores the will of the majority of Americans and marks yet another socially unjust and economically backward scheme from this administration. Any budget deal Congress considers in the coming days must build on current law to prevent the federal government from intruding in state-legal, voter-supported decisions.”

Michael Bennet, US Senator from Colorado:

“In rescinding the Cole memo, the Attorney General failed to listen to Colorado, and will create unnecessary chaos and confusion.”

Ted W. Lieu, member of US House of Representatives, from California: 

“AG Jeff Sessions apparently wants to take America back to the 1920s. Prohibition didn’t work then and it will not work now. Congress needs to pass sensible laws to prevent a monumental waste of precious federal resources chasing Americans who use.”

Justin Strekal, NORML political director:

“If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels.” —to the Washington Post

Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Vermont:

‏”No, Attorney General Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that. Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made.”