Leading Colorado Cannabis Attorney and Advocate Issue Statements Regarding Rescinding of Federal Marijuana Enforcement Guidance

Jan 4, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memo to U.S. attorneys today announcing he has rescinded all previously issued Justice Department guidance concerning marijuana policy. Previous guidance includes:

  • The October 2009 memo from Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden to U.S. attorneys regarding "Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana;"
  • The June 2011 memo from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole to U.S. attorneys providing "Guidance Regarding the Ogden Memo in Jurisdictions Seeking to Authorize Marijuana for Medical Use;"
  • The August 2013 memo from Cole to U.S. attorneys providing "Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement;"
  • The February 2014 memo from Cole to U.S. attorneys providing "Guidance Regarding Marijuana Related Financial Crimes;" and
  • The October 2014 policy statement from Monty Wilkinson, director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, regarding "Marijuana Issues in Indian Country."

Statement from Brian Vicente, co-author of the Colorado legalization initiative, Amendment 64, and founding partner of Vicente Sederberg LLC, a preeminent national cannabis law firm representing cannabis businesses around the nation:

"Since August 2013, the 'Cole Memo' has served as guidance to prosecutors regarding prioritization and prosecutorial discretion with respect to federal marijuana law enforcement. It was not a law or binding policy and, as it explicitly stated, it never altered the Justice Department's authority to enforce federal marijuana laws. The rescinding of the Cole Memo does not indicate any specific changes in enforcement policy, and it remains to be seen whether it will have any significant impact on the Department's actions. U.S. attorneys had vast prosecutorial discretion before and they will continue to have the same level of discretion.

"We hope federal prosecutors will share the position that President Trump expressed during his campaign, when he stated that marijuana policy should 'absolutely' be left to the states. We also strongly encourage them to take into account the strong public support for letting states develop their own marijuana laws. Polls show nearly two-thirds of American voters — including a majority of Republicans — think marijuana should be legal for adult use. Even more have expressed opposition to the federal government interfering in state's marijuana policy decisions.

Statement from Mason Tvert, who co-directed the Amendment 64 campaign and now serves as vice president of communications for VS Strategies, a consulting firm dedicated to advancing the cannabis industry in a dynamic and responsible manner:

"The regulated marijuana market is steadily replacing the criminal market while also creating tens of thousands of jobs and pumping hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue into state economies. It would be incredibly counterproductive for the federal government to roll back this progress and hand the marijuana industry back over to cartels and criminals. States like Colorado and Washington have demonstrated that regulating marijuana works. Officials in these states are doing more than ever before to control marijuana, and it would behoove federal authorities to work with them and not against them."