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The Cole Memo and the Marijuana Industry. Marijuana leaf in silver plate.

The Cole Memo and the Cannabis Industry

What is the Cole Memo? Have you heard that phrase before? If not, then let's take a look at what it is and how it relates to the cannabis industry and politics as a whole. Many cannabis consumers who are knowledgeable about the cannabis industry don't even know. Let us now explore it in more details.

The Cole Memo

Washington and Colorado voters legalized marijuana in 2012 for adult recreational use. Both of these states in 2013 were deeply involved with the process of drafting significant regulations, guidelines and rules for the budding cannabis industry. The new state legislation was still different from the federal law. In fact, they were at odds. And so, the state lawyers had to seek the guidance of the federal government to write the legislature. For that reason, the Cole Memo was created. This document was initially drafted in 2013 by James M. Cole, former US Attorney General. He issued the memo to all other attorneys in the United States and on August 29, 2013, the memo was published by the Department of Justice.

The Priorities

This memo instructed law enforcement and criminal prosecutors to focus their attention only on certain state-legislation for the cannabis industry and to make these a priority. These criteria included:

  • Prevention of marijuana distribution to minors
  • Preventing criminal enterprises, cartels and gangs to enjoy revenue from marijuana sale
  • Firearm use prevention in marijuana cultivation and distribution
  • Preventing states from diverting marijuana to other states
  • Preventing all legally authorized cannabis activity for the state from being used as a pretext for illegal drug activity
  • Violence prevention in marijuana cultivation and distribution
  • Preventing marijuana grow operations on public lands
  • Preventing marijuana use that would cause adverse effect to public health and safety
  • Prevention of marijuana use and possession in federal land

Jeff Sessions

Politics plays a huge role in the Cole Memo and the cannabis industry. While Jeff Sessions may dislike the cannabis industry and everything about it, he loves letting his distaste heard. He once said that drug use is bad and will destroy people's life, which is partially true, depending on the drug of choice. However, Jeff Sessions continues to attack the cannabis industry and actually demeaning the research done to reduce deaths caused by opioid use. He also casts a lot of doubt on the medical benefits of cannabis.

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So, you know that Jeff Sessions does like some of the provisions in the Cole Memo as it relates to prevention, but from his kind of language, he probably would like it to be more stringent or not be part of the discussion at all. However, he did acknowledge that the Cole Memo was valid to a point as it allowed states to recognize that the limitations of the DOJ in conducting marijuana raids nationwide and it also allowed states to regulate the adult use of cannabis.

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The Major Shift

The Cole Memo is a representative of a major shift within the federal government that will impact the cannabis industry, de-prioritizing the use of federal funds in enforcing the prohibition of marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act. The Cole Memo encourages a hands-off approach by the federal government. Unless prosecutions met the criteria listed above, most of the federal prosecutions for marijuana came to a halt after the issuance of the Cole Memo. Since the Cole Memo was issued, federal prosecutions were reduced, but especially in states where marijuana was legal. The cannabis industry was all the better for this development, if you asked many advocates. If you want to know more about the Cole Memo and its impact on the cannabis industry, join the Cannabis Training University today!