Governors Urge Sessions to Keep Cannabis Legal

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Earlier today the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington sent a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, urging them to uphold the Obama-era policies that have allowed the legal and regulated use of cannabis to proceed in their states.

The governors urged Sessions and Mnuchin to continue following the Cole Memo—the August 2013 Justice Department memorandum that allowed adult-use legalization in Colorado and Washington—and the Treasury Department’s FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) guidance that allowed financial institutions to work with state-legal companies.

“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” they wrote. “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.”

“Twenty-eight states, representing more than 60 percent of Americans, have authorized some form of marijuana-related conduct. As we face the reality of these legalizations, we stand eager to work with our federal partners to address implementation and enforcement concerns cooperatively. The Cole Memorandum and the associated FinCEN guidance are critical to the success of any collaboration.”

The letter was signed by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. All four requested that Sessions and Mnuchin “engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems.”

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