It’s been business as usual in the Northern Nevada cannabis industry despite federal crackdown threats last week.
President Donald Trump and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week its intention of rescinding a directive called the Cole Memorandum put into place from the Obama-era.
Drafted in August 2013 by US Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the memo described the priorities federal prosecutors should have in states that have legalized the medical and recreational use of marijuana. The Cole Memo called for US attorneys to not focus federal resources on cases in states that have clear and unambiguous laws regarding their constituents’ use of marijuana.
However, on Jan. 4, Sessions released a memo from the Department of Justice about marijuana activities being a basis for prosecuting other crimes. It states that previous statutes “reflect Congress’s determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug” and noted that “given the Department’s well-established general principles, previous guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and rescinded, effective immediately.”
The 2013 Cole memo that protected legalized marijuana dispensaries from prosecution or shutdown has left many cannabis businesses across the country concerned about the security of millions of dollars invested in their enterprises. Marijuana business owners have already expressed having issues with working in cash-only ventures that are not federally-insured.
Fortunately, the State of Nevada’s stance on this issue has been to side with the voters. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt told press that it is reviewing the Cole Memo’s withdrawal that the DOJ released on Jan. 4 and evaluating its possible ramifications to the state. Governor Brian Sandoval also issued a statement in support of Nevada’s legal cannabis ventures and is promising to review this with federal officials.
On Jan. 5, RISE dispensaries (including the recently-opened retail store in Spanish Springs) released a statement to its patients, customers, and stakeholders stating that the decision from Sessions came as no surprise.
“The Cole Memo was not law and was not enforceable, it was merely prosecutorial guidance for US Attorneys to help them determine when they should or should not pursue legal claims against operators producing and selling marijuana,” it stated. The letter believes that the Cole Memo withdrawal will not impact its ability to serve their patients, customers, and community and assures people that there is still protection under the Rohrabher-Blumenauer amendment which prohibits federal dollars being spent on enforcing federal marijuana laws on state operators in full compliance.
“We will deploy all resources and measures possible to ensure your ability to maintain access to a plant that has therapeutic value for the condition(s) you may suffer from. We will stand up and be heard when it comes to defending your rights, and while we do not think this latest development will impact your access to our medicine, we stand fully prepared to fight if your rights are infringed upon.”
Since its Spanish Springs retail store opening on Jan. 2, RISE General Manager Mallory French says that it employs 14 people and since business has been picking up will probably hiring again soon.
Sparks’ Silver State Relief dispensary supervisor Karly Close says that the announcement has not affected its business yet and that only time will tell on what transpires in the law.
“We will just wait it out and see what’s best for our employees and community,” Close says. She adds that ever since recreational marijuana has become legal in Nevada, Silver State Relief’s business has continued to thrive with the majority of their customers being local.
“Thankfully Nevada has taken a standpoint that they will go through with what the voters want. Luckily, the DA is on our side,” Close says. She added that her personal viewpoint is that she supports the Cole Memo in its intent to let US states form their own regulations and stick by the voters’ decision.