Herzberg is an Irvine resident with shared ownership of two dispensaries in Santa Ana and he owns the cannabis real estate company CalCann Holdings. Like many Americans, Herzberg is a frequent flier and several years ago joined the Department of Homeland Security’s Global Entry Program, which allows “low risk” passengers to circumvent traditional airport security screenings.
Despite being legal in more than half of US states, in one form or another, most people are surprised to learn that cannabis use or being associated with cannabis in general can preclude individuals from many of the rights and privileges that most of us take for granted.
For example, in states where medical cannabis is legal, many are often at risk of losing their jobs because of their status as medical cannabis patients. The most notable example of this in the case Coates v. Dish Network, LLC., in which a quadriplegic employee of Dish Network was fired for his off-hours use of medical cannabis.
The case ended up going all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court, but ultimately Coates lost his case. This is primarily because Colorado did not write into its medical cannabis laws patient protections for employees and, most importantly, because cannabis is still illegal under federal law.
Using similar arguments, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials defended the revocation of Herzberg’s security clearance by saying that they are simply abiding by their zero tolerance policy on drugs. But Herzberg is less than convinced.
“I really don’t think they have a basis for their decision,” Herzberg told the Orange County Register. “I have absolutely no risk factors other than owning a marijuana business.”
Although Herzberg is the only cannabis business owner known to have lost his flight security clearance based, which is at best a minor inconvenience, this just the latest incident in a long line of disturbing event that may hint at a looming crackdown of California cannabis.
At the beginning of this year, on January 4th, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era Cole Memo, which stated that the Justice Department would not interfere with states that have legalized cannabis, provided that business owners act in accordance with state cannabis laws.
Fast forward three months later, and Sessions attacks California for its sanctuary policies and immigration laws. Soon thereafter, Herzberg’s security clearance is revoked. Does this mean that Sessions is gearing up for a cannabis crackdown in California? It’s difficult to say.
Given his precarious placement in the Trump Administration, it is unlikely that Sessions will risk making politically damaging moves, such as a nationwide crackdown on cannabis. However that does not mean he would be unwilling to punish California in an attempt to please the president and his base, and that opportunity may present itself in the form of the cannabis industry.
A federal cannabis crackdown may not be imminent, but the risk of operating a legal cannabis has not been this high since Colorado first legalized cannabis in 2014, underscoring the need for cannabis business owners to remain vigilant, cautious, and most importantly compliant with state cannabis laws.