Four governors sent a letter to two members of the Trump administration urging them to lay off states that have legalized recreational cannabis. Governors Kate Brown (D-Oregon), John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado), Jay Inslee (D-Washington) and Bill Walker (I-Alaska) signed the letter dated April 3. The message is clear that recreational states want to prevent the possibility of a crackdown.
“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 four signatories wrote. The Obama administration-era Cole Memo was issued by the Justice Department in 2013 and allowed states to enact their own cannabis laws without fear of federal intervention. The Cole memo was named after Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who said the federal government would focus on other things. “The balance struck by the [Cole Memo] has been indispensable—providing the necessary framework for state regulatory programs centered on public safety and health protections,” the statement continued.
The open letter specifically asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to be upfront about any possible regulatory and enforcement actions in the near future. The governors cited the economic benefits in their states that are a result of regulating cannabis. They also asked the Treasury Department to leave the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) alone, which makes it easier for banks to work with cannabis businesses. Sessions has already hinted that he will crack down on states that have enacted recreational cannabis, calling it “only slightly less awful” than heroin, and a “dangerous” drug that causes “real violence.” Just weeks ago, White House secretary Sean Spicer promised “greater enforcement” of federal cannabis law.
The Department of Justice has received the letter and will review the terms. The idea to write the letter reportedly came out of Governor Kate Brown’s office. A new bundle of regulations introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) would bridge the gap between inconsistent state and federal laws.