DCMJ—and the broader cannabis legalization community—are concerned by Trump’s nominee for attorney general. Senator Sessions said in April 2016, “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and once said he thought the Ku Klux Klan “were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” Legalization advocates worry that an Attorney General Sessions could reverse years of progress on cannabis legalization at the state level. Currently, 28 states and the District of Columbia have some form of legal cannabis, though the plant is still illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act.
Legal cannabis markets in states like Colorado and Washington were given some assurance in the Obama era by his administration’s Cole memo. The Cole memo—named for Deputy Attorney General James Cole—was published in August 2013 in response to the then-recent success of cannabis legalization in Colorado and Washington. The memo read: “In jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form...conduct in compliance with those laws and regulations is less likely to threaten the federal priorities…”
It was designed as a temporary solution by which the federal government would not interfere in legal cannabis markets in those states, provided they met certain criteria. But the Cole memo is simply an Obama administration policy, not a federal law—which is why legalization advocates worry what action a new administration and attorney general may take in state cannabis markets.