The governors of the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana use want the Trump administration to maintain existing policies related to the enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper joined Governors Kate Brown of Oregon, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Bill Walker of Alaska in signing a letter that was delivered to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Monday.
In the letter, the Governors offer reasons for maintaining existing policy. They also ask for the opportunity to discuss any possible changes to regulation or enforcement prior to implementation.
The main message of the letter is in the following paragraph:
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.
The Cole Memo referenced by the Governors was issued in August 2013 as an update to guidelines concerning enforcement of marijuana laws after states, including Colorado, started legalizing recreational marijuana.
In the memo, the Department of Justice urges a focus on the following aspects of of marijuana enforcement:
- Preventing distribution to minors
- Preventing sales revenue from going to criminal enterprises
- Preventing the movement of marijuana from states where it is legal into states where it is illegal
- Preventing legal marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for illegal activities
- Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
- Preventing impaired driving
- Preventing marijuana growth on public land
- Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.