Officials from states with legalized marijuana are warning the Trump administration that a crackdown on state pot laws will only serve to boost illicit sales.
The governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Monday, imploring them to leave marijuana policy to the states. The governors say they previously opposed legal weed, but argue the policy is boosting revenue and helping reduce the “inequitable incarceration” of minority groups, reports the Coloradoan.
The letter comes amid concerns that Sessions, a stanch opponent of legalization, will crack down on state pot laws. The governors are particularly concerned Sessions will roll back aspects of the Cole Memorandum, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that direct the Department of Justice to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws.
“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors said in the letter, according to Portland Business Journal. “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.”
The governors also address concerns regarding financial regulations that could hamper the operation of legal marijuana businesses. They ask Mnuchin to leave the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network rules established under the Obama administration that allow businesses in states with legalization to safely store revenue at a financial institution.
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski sent a letter to Sessions March 2 asking for similar federal restraint on marijuana policy. Nine other senators, all Democrats, signed onto the letter saying states’ efforts should not be impeded.
While President Donald Trump promised to respect state laws on marijuana during the election, rhetoric from Sessions and other administration officials is fostering anxiety within the burgeoning industry.
If Sessions and the Trump administration move to interfere with state pot laws, it could cost the marijuana industry hundreds of thousands of jobs. A report released in February by New Frontier Data projects that an unimpeded marijuana market will create more than 250,000 jobs by 2020. The booming projections for growth stand in stark contrast to manufacturing jobs, which are expected to crater by more than 800,000 by 2024.
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