HelloMD Co-Founder Pamela Hadfield recently made an appearance in a CBS Sunday Morning feature on the current climate towards marijuana in the United States. The video touched on key issues in the industry including: driving while high, the opioid epidemic and the growing acceptance of cannabis science by academia. It also covered the main topic on everyone’s mind: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rescinding of the Cole Memo, and how his actions may affect the consumers and businesses of this booming industry.
The Cole Memo was a directive from the Obama era, which stated that as long as states that had legalized marijuana didn’t interfere with federal priorities (like stopping the distribution of drugs to minors), the government would in turn adopt a policy of noninterference.
The nixing of this memo opens the door for arrests and prosecution of individual consumers as wells raids that could threaten businesses that operate in the legal cannabis market.
While Sessions was unclear on whether federal prosecutors would make any distinctions between medical and recreational marijuana, medical users have another protection in place: the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, a provision of a federal spending bill that prevents the Justice Department from using money on prosecutions that involve medical cannabis.
The bad news is that this amendment is up for a vote—Congress will decide later on Jan. 19 whether that protection should stay in place.
So what’s the best way to protect yourself amid all of these constantly changing laws and regulations? It seems like the safest bet for now is to stay a medical patient, if you can.
In an interview in Westword, cannabis attorney Brian Vicente, says it’s unlikely that federal prosecutors are interested in pursuing medical patients who are compliant with state law.
Pamela agrees and thinks that if you’re in a state that allows both recreational and medical consumption, staying in the realm of medicinal marijuana is an appropriate—and safe—response to the Department of Justice’s actions.
She also adds that if you’re in California, which recently legalized adult-use sales, most areas outside of major cities aren’t ready to—or have no interest in—participating in the new recreational market. To access cannabis in these dry areas, you’ll need a medical marijuana recommendation.
While Sessions’ move is cause for alarm, there may be a silver lining: Numerous opinion pieces by political experts in publications like the Washington Post and Politico speculate that Sessions’ move may actually push Congress towards legalization of the plant.
Lawmakers have been mobilizing to make this happen: Representatives Tom Garret (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced HR 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 in February 2017. And due to recent events, the bill is getting more coverage.
HR 1227 would do away with federal criminal penalties for possession and cultivation of marijuana—essentially cannabis would be treated in a manner similar to cigarettes and alcohol. It’d also remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, allowing for better research on the plant’s benefits.
You can support this bill and reject Sessions’ effort by—you guessed it—calling or emailing your representatives in Congress. NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has a started a letter-writing campaign to help the legislation’s passage, and another campaign to encourage your representatives to reject Sessions’ recent decision. If you enter your home address on these pages, it automatically addresses your letter to your respective representative—we encourage your participation.
Photo credit: CBS Sunday Morning