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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Friday, January 5, 2018

Recreational and Medical Marijuana: The Empire Strikes Back

For the past 10-years, the marijuana legalization process has gained traction in the United States and other Western countries. Canada and California went legal last week; 8 states have legalized recreational use of marijuana; another 20 states have legalized medical marijuana.

Yesterday, however, the other shoe fell in Washington D.C., with the United States Attorney General reversing USDOJ policy and instructing United States Attorneys to begin prosecuting marijuana violations of the Controlled Substance Act. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' policy statement rescinds the Obama-era Cole memo; a memo that included a series of enforcement directives designed to leave policing marijuana dispensaries to the individual states.

AG Sessions' personal animus against pot is well known. He has gone on record saying that marijuana users are "not good people".

Sessions' pronouncement sends a fledgling billion dollar industry into an era of uncertainty. For the past decade, banks, insurance companies and capital investors took baby-steps into the massive marijuana industry; an industry that, until the past decade, operated solely within the Wild West of the black market.

This policy shift will chill the macro moves of the major industry players. The combined markets of California and Washington, both recreational use states, were expected to eclipse the revenue of the alcohol industry. That's some big money folks.

And because it's such big money, you can bet some of the money will be spent to deploy lobbyists in a full-court-press on Congress to, once-and-for-all, remove marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act. We here at the Law Blogger are not holding our breath, as this has been tried before, and the efforts, of both lobbyists and litigants, have failed.

Unfortunately for the marijuana industry, Congress' attitude toward marijuana seems influenced by the hubris of a failed 30-year "war on drugs" that involves a series of mutual prohibition treaties with many of our trading partners to the South. This attitude does not take into account that the ganja smuggler is a thing of the past; today high-quality pot is produced in a 2x2 closet with a grow lamp and some TLC.

Seriously, it is now time to end marijuana prohibition. Marijuana should be removed from Schedule 1 and placed into its own category; a category most-closely related to alcohol. Yes there are problems, health and otherwise, that arise from chronic marijuana use.

Prohibition, however, is not the answer. Regulate the weed; tax the revenue generated from weed; just stop the prohibition of the weed.

Post Script: Some U.S. Attorneys have made ominous statements promising aggressive prosecution for pot distributors, Massachusetts, while others, Colorado, have said they will not prosecute federal marijuana cases.

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