Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, April 3, 2017

Governors of first four legalization states write to AG Sessions and Secretary Mnuchin in support of Cole Memo

As reported in this Huffington Post piece, "Governors from four states where recreational marijuana is legal for adult use sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday urging them to respect state cannabis laws." The full relatively brief letter is available at this link, and here are some key passages:

As governors of states that have legalized marijuana in some form, we ask the Trump Administration to engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems.  The balance struck by the 2013 Department of Justice Cole Memorandum (Cole Memo) has been indispensable – providing the necessary framework for state regulatory programs centered on public safety and health protections.

We understand you and others in the administration have some concerns regarding marijuana.  We sympathize, as many of us expressed apprehensions before our states adopted current laws.  As governors, we have committed to implementing the will of our citizens and have worked cooperatively with our legislatures to establish robust regulatory structures that prioritize public health and public safety, reduce inequitable incarceration and expand our economies.

The Cole Memo and the related Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance provide the foundation for state regulatory systems and are vital to maintaining control over marijuana in our states. Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences. Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.  Likewise, without the FinCEN guidance, financial institutions will be less willing to provide services to marijuana-related businesses.  This would force industry participants to be even more cash reliant, posing safety risks both to the public and to state regulators conducting enforcement activity.  The Cole Memo and FinCEN guidance strike a reasonable balance between allowing the states to enact reasonable regulations and the federal government’s interest in controlling some of the collateral consequences of legalization.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2017/04/governors-of-first-four-legalization-states-write-to-ag-sessions-and-secretary-mnuchin-in-support-of.html

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