WeedWeek, 1/6/18: AG Sessions Declares War on Weed

Posted by | January 7, 2018 | Cannabis News

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Recommended: The Guardian and New York published excerpts from the new bestselling tell-all Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff.
Here’s the news.
POLITICS
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the so-called Cole Memo, which effectively blocked federal prosecutions of state-legal marijuana businesses. U.S. attorneys will now have broader discretion to pursue cannabis related prosecutions, potentially including cases against state-legal entities. For more see Bloomberg. See Sessions’ memo here.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) quickly rebuked Sessions, calling the move “a trampling of Colorado’s rights.” Gardner added that Sessions was breaking a personal pledge he had made to Gardner: “I would like to know from the attorney general: What changed?” For more see here. After distancing himself from Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, It’s Gardner’s second recent break from the administration.
The cannabis world’s response was furious. In the move, some Democrats saw the administration attacking California, where President Trump is unpopular.
Tom Angell rounds up an array of politicians’ reactions. Officials in many legal states issued statements saying the decision wouldn’t affect their state industries. Several U.S. Attorneys said it would not affect the cases they pursue. A few U.S. Attorneys, like Andrew Lelling, a Trump appointee in Massachusetts, issuedmore ambiguous statements.
The day before the cannabis news broke, Sessions appointed 17 new interim U.S. Attorneys. After the news broke, Brian Stretch, the Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, abruptly resigned to join a private firm. Sessions will presumably name a replacement for the district, which includes the Bay Area and the Emerald Triangle.
While Democrats widely condemned Sessions, many have mixed feelings about campaigning in 2018 on cannabis legalization. Articles in Vice and Slate say they should do it.
The Sessions news, Rolling Stone explains, highlights how weed is only “sort of” legal in California. In a video, Shango Los captured Washington AG Bob Ferguson’s (D) response to Sessions.
In Slate, I argue the cannabis industry has little to fear from Sessions. Tom Angell offers a similar perspective.
U.S. and Canadian pot stocks fell on the news. For more see McClatchy. The L.A. TImes reports some financial institutions may back away from cannabis.
Canna Law Blog has a post on what businesses need to know.
(Don’t forget: After the 2016 election, virtually the entire for-profit cannabis community chose to remain silent on the Sessions nomination rather than risk angering him.)
In the N.Y. Times, Timothy Egan called Sessions “a small, backward-looking man with even smaller, more backward-looking ideas.
Anti-legalization activist Kevin Sabet said the decision would curtail cannabis investment. Before the Sessions news landed, MJBizDaily noted big name funds MedMen and Poseidon Asset Management were struggling to reach their target raises. (That story also has more MJBiz predictions for 2018.)
The National Fraternal Order of Police cheered Sessions as did the National Sheriffs Association, which also clarified that sheriffs enforce state laws.
Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert took their turns on Sessions. The U.S. Cannabis Coalition, a bipartisan group led by Trump ally Roger Stone releasedan anti-Sessions ad, before the Memo news.
The AP explains what’s going on with California’s track and trace system, which will not become mandatory until later this year. For the moment, business are “self-reporting,” often on paper.
The L.A. Times checked in on licensing in California. The state said it had licensed more than 400 businesses. L.A. city council discussed the idea of a city-run public bank.
The Washington Post reports on California’s four attempts at cannabis equity programs, in L.A., San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.
I visited to Humboldt and wrote a HuffPost piece on how legalization hasmarginalized the industry’s pioneers.
Several articles in the conservative National Review seem open to cannabis reform.
N.Y. Times columnist Frank Bruni says lots of people are running for governor of Colorado.
Alaska regulators are concerned about product testing inconsistencies.
Strong Economy for Growth, a group which opposed REC in Massachusetts,paid a $31,000 penalty for campaign finance violations.
Hours after the Sessions news, Vermont’s House approved a REC bill allowing possession and home grow, but not an industry.
Delaware REC supporters are gearing up for a legislative push. In Florida, REC supporters want a ballot initiative in 2020.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said the state wouldn’t confiscate guns from MED patients. (In late December Philly.com noted the NRA has not commentedon the issue.)
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) set the state’s MED vote for June. Indiana’s Republican House Speaker said he’s open to considering MED.
Canadian officials discussed how they expect legalization to squeeze the black and grey markets. And officials said taxes are likely to fluctuate.
Australia wants to capture the MED export market.
I have a new column in The Guardian called High Time.
BUSINESS
Philip Morris says it hopes to eventually stop selling cigarettes, and replace them with smoke-free products.
The New York Times Magazine has a feature on Safe Harbor, a Colorado credit union offering cannabis banking services. The Federal Crimes Enforcement Network found more banks are willing to get their hands green.
Canadian MED producer Aurora agreed to buy an 18% stake in organic cannabis grower Green Organic Dutchman Holdings for C$55M. CanniMed, a producer which Aurora has targeted for a potentially hostile takeover, prefers a tie up with Newstrike.
ArcView estimates the total economic impact of legal cannabis will grow from $16 billion in 2017 to $40 billion by 2021.
New Cannabis Ventures predicts consolidation in the Canadian industry.
Troubled start-up MassRoots is starting a blockchain subsidiary. Seeking Alpha asks if it could be for real.
MedMen launched a billboard ad campaign in L.A.

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