24 February 2017

It was only a matter of hours before the cannanet was alive with reports opinions and general wailing and gnashing of teeth.

For reference here’s all the major players( media, law firms, associations) on the cannabis side of things as well as the mainstream media.

Cannabis Industry Journal
Civilized
Ganjapreneur
High Times
MJ Biz Daily

Business Insider
Forbes
Fortune
LA Times
Market Watch
Washington Post

Congressional Cannabis Caucus
NORML
Oregon Cannabis Association

Greenspoon Marder
Hoban Law Group
Thompson Coburn
Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP

Cannabis Media

Cannabis Industry Journal

During a press conference on Thursday, February 23rd, White House press secretary Sean Spicer made a number of comments hinting at the Trump administration’s stance on legal cannabis. He identified a clear distinction that he makes between medical and recreational cannabis laws, while mentioning President Trump’s previous statements on medical cannabis. Roby Brock, a journalist at Arkansas news website Talk Business & Politics, asked a question about the state and federal conflict in cannabis laws. “The Obama administration chose not to strictly enforce those federal marijuana laws,” says Brock. “My question to you is with Jeff Sessions over at the Department of Justice as AG, what is going to be the Trump administration’s position on marijuana legalization where it is in a state-federal conflict like this?”

Sean Spicer replied with more of the same of his previous statements regarding the Trump administration’s stance on cannabis legalization. “There are two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana,” says Spicer. “I think medical marijuana- I’ve said before that the president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through, who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them. And that’s one that congress, through a rider in 2011, I think put in the appropriations bill saying the Department of Justice wouldn’t be funded to go after them.” The rider in the appropriations bill he is referring to is the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment that became law in December of 2014, but must be renewed each fiscal year. That piece of legislation provides for exactly what he said- preventing the Justice Department from using funds for activity that might interfere with state’s legal medical cannabis programs. Regarding the actual conflict between federal and state laws, Spicer said “I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it,” referring to the Department of Justice enforcing the Controlled Substances Act.

Spicer went on to make some questionably ill-informed remarks, including linking recreational cannabis use to the opioid crisis. “There is a big difference between that [medical marijuana] and recreational marijuana,” says Spicer. “And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people- there is still a federal law that we need to abide by… When it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.” Though those comments are unclear, it could suggest that Mr. Spicer believes in a possible link between recreational cannabis use and the opioid crisis, or at least grouping them in the same category. While there is not much evidence suggesting of the link he is referring to, a study published in 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, suggests a possible link between medical cannabis laws and the decrease in opioid overdoses.

Link to full article from the headline

Civilized: Activists React to Sean Spicer’s Cannabis Threat

So Spicer’s argument in favor of a crackdown is shaky at best. And the scope of the proposed crackdown is vague. To what extent will the Department of Justice enforce cannabis prohibition? Will the DEA raid states that have legalized recreational use or try another way to bring them back into compliance with federal law? Will Sessions crack down on the legal states or stick to curbing recreational drug use in other jurisdictions? Or will the administration simply campaign against new legalization initiatives while respecting states that have already changed their cannabis laws?

Link to full article from the headline

Ganjapreneur: BREAKING: Trump Press Secretary Hints at “Greater Enforcement” of Federal Cannabis Prohibition

“I do believe you will see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, in what has become the Trump administration’s first official statement on the cannabis industry since taking control. The statement was made in response to questions from two separate reporters.

Link to full article from the headline

+  Cannabis Industry Reacts to Spicer’s “Greater Enforcement” Comments

High Times: WHITE HOUSE WARNS: FED CRACKDOWN ON RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA COMING

America is in the throes of an opiate overdose epidemic with no end in sight. So President Donald Trump’s administration, which has yet to make a single misstep in domestic or foreign policy, is set to launch a federal crackdown on marijuana legalization, the White House suggested on Thursday.

During his daily briefing session with reporters, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the states enjoying tax revenue and job creation after legalizing cannabis will likely see “greater enforcement” of federal law banning marijuana in every shape and form.

Spicer also contradicted known science and medical research by tacitly pinning the blame for the country’s heroin problem on marijuana. Not pharmaceutical industry-driven overprescription of pain pills, or a faulty reliance on medication to solve pain—it’s marijuana that’s driving Americans to overdose on pain pills and then, when that supply or their health insurance runs out, turn to heroin, Spicer said.

MJ Biz Daily: White House press secretary predicts ‘greater enforcement’ on recreational marijuana

“I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it,” Spicer said in response to a question about whether the Department of Justice will enforce federal marijuana laws.

Link to full article from the headline

+  Washington state vows to fight any cannabis crackdown by feds

General Media

Business InsiderSean Spicer gave an ominous warning to the marijuana industry

Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump’s press secretary, warned the burgeoning US marijuana industry that there will be “greater enforcement” of federal laws.

“I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice — I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it [marijuana],” Spicer said during Thursday briefing, responding to a question regarding the state-federal conflict of marijuana laws.

Link to full article from the headline

Forbes:  Sean Spicer Wrongly Links Recreational Marijuana With Opioid Crisis

White House press secretary Sean Spicer seemed to link recreational marijuana to the opioid addiction crisis happening in the country, but the facts don’t support that connection. During today’s press conference, Spicer was asked about marijuana and how the new administration planned to address states that have legalized it. Spicer said that the president understood that patients suffering from certain diseases got comfort from drugs like medical marijuana.

Then Spicer went on to say, “There’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. I think that when you see the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law we need to abide by in terms of when it comes to recreational marijuana.”

In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a review of 10,000 medical marijuana studies published since 1999, showing that there was substantial evidence supporting the use of marijuana or its extracts for the treatment of chronic pain. It is widely regarded that the opioid crisis was spurred by big pharmaceutical companies that liberally prescribed the addictive drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin, not marijuana consumers.

Link to full article from the headline

Fortune: The White House Expects ‘Greater Enforcement’ of Federal Marijuana Laws

Donald Trump’s administration may have just thrown a wrench into the plans of the fast-growing legal recreational marijuana industry.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon that he expects to see “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug for recreational purposes. There have been questions about how the new administration will handle the issue of marijuana legalization ever since Trump announced Jeff Sessions as his pick for U.S. Attorney General. Sessions, who was confirmed as Attorney General and now heads the U.S. Department of Justice, has spoken out against marijuana legalization in the past.

Link to full article from the headline

LA TimesTrump administration signals a possible crackdown on states over marijuana

It was the clearest warning yet that the Trump administration may move to disrupt the marijuana trade in the eight states, including California, that have legalized the recreational use of pot.

…/..

“It looks like the first shoe is dropping as expected,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Trump was never all that reassuring on the issue of marijuana legalization.”

Link to full article from the headline

Market Watch: Expect ‘greater enforcement’ of marijuana laws under Trump, Spicer says

This stance is a blow to the industry, which has been on pins and needles waiting for a signal on how the administration would approach the drug amid growing acceptance. Even the threat of enforcing federal laws has “very real consequences” for the legalized industry, said Rafael Lemaitre, who previously served as associate director for public affairs for the Drug Policy Office under President Barack Obama.

Link to full article from the headline

Washington Post: Spicer: Feds could step up enforcement against marijuana use in states

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that he expects states to be subject to “greater enforcement” of federal laws against marijuana use, a move that could undercut the growing number of jurisdictions moving to legalize the drug for recreational purposes.

Spicer, speaking at a White House press briefing, said that President Trump sees “a big difference” between use of marijuana for medical purposes and for recreational purposes.

Link to full article from the headline

Associations Groups

Congressional Cannabis Caucus: Statement

“Today’s statement by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer regarding marijuana policy reaffirms the need for the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. Last November, eight more states passed measures to increase access to state-legal cannabis, and today more than 300 million Americans live in states with access to adult-use marijuana or some form medical cannabis.  Among them are four additional states that have fully legalized the adult-use of marijuana. We hope today’s comments do not reflect the views of the President and his administration.  As co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, we stand ready to educate this administration on the need for more sensible marijuana policies and share the many experiences states have had with the legalization of cannabis. Together, we will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to reform our failed marijuana policies and provide a voice for Americans who have overwhelmingly voted for a more sensible drug policy.”

Source: Cannabis Caucus e-mailed press release

Today Congressman Earl Blumenauer released the following statement in response to White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer’s statement that the Trump Administration may start “greater enforcement” of adult use of marijuana.

“I am deeply disappointed by Sean Spicer’s statement that he expects states to see ‘greater enforcement’ and crackdown on adult use of marijuana. The national prohibition of cannabis has been a failure, and millions of voters across the country have demanded a more sensible approach. I’m looking forward to working with the leadership of our newly formed cannabis caucus to ensure that Oregonian’s wishes are protected and that we end the failed prohibition on marijuana.”

Source: E-mail from Representative Blumenauer’s office

NORMLNORML Responds: White House Threatens To Crack Down On Legal Marijuana

Trump and Sessions seek to undermine the will of the American People in regards to marijuana policy

Washington, DC: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana. “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, and added that the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.”

The Department of Justice is lead by Jeff Sessions, a renowned ardent marijuana prohibitionist.

“If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana they will be taking billions of dollars away from state sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels. This action will lead to swift backlash from the 71% of Americans that think marijuana policy should be dictated by the states and is a foolish and reckless direction to take our country. Sad.” said Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML.

The Press Secretary’s comments are similar to those made by Sen. Sessions during his vetting process when he made clear that any use of marijuana remains against federal law and that “it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.”

“Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions both hold views that are out of step with mainstream America and they are in conflict with the laws regarding marijuana in over half of the states in this country,” said Justin Strekal, Political Director of NORML. “The fact that President Trump would allow his Attorney General to pursue a path that is so politically unpopular and contrary to will of numerous states is absurd.”

Ultimately, patients and others in legal jurisdictions will only truly be safe from federal prosecution when and if members of Congress elect to amend federal marijuana laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status. Congressional passage of HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ which NORML supports and/or re-authorization of the Rohrabacher-Farr (now to be introduced as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer) amendment would be steps in the right direction to protect patients and others in legal states from undue federal interference.

If federal politicians were truly listening to the will of the electorate, they would move forward to enact these changes, which are strongly in line with voters’ sentiments. According to national polling data released today, 71 percent of voters — including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.”

In short, undermining voters’ wishes and state laws in this regard not only defies common sense, it is also bad politics — particularly for an administration that is defining itself as populist in nature.

Oregon Cannabis Association

Friends and Members,

We know many of you have heard the news about the most recent press conference where White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated that the Department of Justice was going to be looking at “recreational” cannabis programs and likely to be stepping up enforcement. Recreational cannabis was also compared to the opioid epidemic in the same response.

We at the Oregon Cannabis Association want you to know that we are hopeful this does not mean a wholesale shutdown to the recreational cannabis market here in Oregon or anywhere. We recognize that there will be many challenges in the days to come if, in fact, the new Attorney General makes good on the statements made during today’s press conference.

We, as an organization, will continue to do our best to support all facets of the industry as the new administration develops it’s policy position.

We also want to remind everyone that we stand by the following:

– The cannabis industry is the greatest new job creator and revenue generator we have seen in a very long time and these new businesses pay living wages, are small, family-run businesses and help fund, through taxes, schools, law enforcement and much more.

– Cannabis legalization has more support than almost any other issue out there with twenty eight states, including red ones, having some sort of cannabis program. And, in all but one state where adult use was on the ballot, it passed. In a recent poll 71% of those asked believed that States should be able to make their own regulations regarding cannabis legalization.

– There is no rolling back a movement with so much momentum and strength behind it.

– At the end of the day, this is fundamentally a state’s rights issue and the state’s must be allowed to create and regulate their own program.

We will continue to do our best to keep everyone updated as we learn more.

Everyone be safe out there.
Onward!
The Oregon Cannabis Association

LAW FIRMS

Greenspoon Marder- Statement & Article

During a recent press conference, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, in response to a question about cannabis, suggested that while medical cannabis programs provide real benefits to the sick and suffering, recreational cannabis programs are very differently situated. Additionally, Spicer implied that the new Department of Justice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would be seriously considering increased enforcement in recreational states- although it was unclear what that enforcement would be.

In light of the commentary, I would love to connect you with an attorney in the Cannabis Law practice at Greenspoon Marder to discuss the number of possible interpretations of this messaging.

The attorneys are hopeful that this commentary does not indicate a reassessment of the recreational market. Instead, they believe that Spicer’s statement was telegraphing increased enforcement of illegal conduct under the guise of the recreational program and of those acting outside of its regulated boundaries. It is important to note that the administration, as part of this response, has now articulated specific support for medical cannabis and its long-recognized health benefits. Additionally, they believe that the new Trump administration will not shut down the recreational markets in the existing states nor prevent the roll out in states that just recently voted for legalization in November 2016.

I have included a press release below my signature with more information on Spicer’s commentary and what it may mean for the recreational and medicinal cannabis sectors in the U.S. Please let me know if you are interested in a conversation with one of the attorneys.

 GREENSPOON MARDER CANNABIS LAW PRACTICE MONITORING DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE POTENTIAL ACTION REGARDING RECREATIONAL CANNABIS

Fort Lauderdale, FL – February 23, 2017 – During a recent press conference White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, in response to a question about cannabis, suggested that while medical cannabis programs provide real benefits to the sick and suffering, recreational cannabis programs are very differently situated. Additionally, Spicer implied that the new Department of Justice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would be seriously considering increased enforcement in recreational states- although it was unclear what that enforcement would be.

Greenspoon Marder recognizes that there are a number of possible interpretations of this messaging; however, we are hopeful that this does not mean a reassessment of the recreational market. Instead, we believe that Spicer’s statement was telegraphing increased enforcement of illegal conduct under the guise of the recreational program and of those acting outside of its regulated boundaries.

It is important to note that the administration, as part of this response, has now articulated specific support for medical cannabis and its long-recognized health benefits.

Additionally, we believe that the new Trump administration will not shut down the recreational markets in the existing states nor prevent the roll out in states that just recently voted for legalization in November 2016.

“Voters across the country have spoken loudly over the past few years in favor of having a regulated cannabis market,” says Gerald Greenspoon, Co-Managing Director of Greenspoon Marder.

It is our position that even if enforcement is expanded beyond the existing Cole Memo, the Trump administration will see the benefits of legalized cannabis programs, both medical and adult use, and will encourage the regulated part of the market to thrive.

“In states with legalization and a well-regulated program, we are witnessing increased tax revenue, creation of new jobs, both direct and indirect, including the establishment of both small, family run businesses, plus the development of new technology and scientific research- all things the new administration has spoken in favor of, and of benefit to the U.S. economy,” comments Greenspoon.

Greenspoon Marder is dedicated to supporting our cannabis clients and their legal businesses and will continue to monitor closely any further action by the Department of Justice.

Hoban Law Group – Statement

Eight years of the Obama White House has resulted in a level of comfort for state-legal medical and adult use marijuana businesses that has never been guaranteed under the current Trump administration. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments yesterday, resulting in speculation that there could be increased federal enforcement against recreational marijuana sales, should not come as a surprise to industry members who are highly risk tolerant and whose success has come in the face of continuous uncertainty since 2009.

As all of us already know, medical and adult use marijuana markets serve two vastly distinct groups of consumers in states where they are both legal. And while Sean Spicer’s comments comparing the national opioid crisis and the demand for adult use marijuana are highly ignorant, we cannot expect the current Trump administration to truly understand the difference considering their lack of experience and interest in the reality of how this industry functions.

“This is more of an opportunity than a crisis,” said Hoban Law Group Managing Partner Bob Hoban. “Secretary Spicer’s comments, which were obviously unplanned and represent a very small part of a lengthy press briefing on a variety of topics, speak to the lack of education and understanding in the Trump administration about the legal and well regulated marijuana industry. We welcome the opportunity to open the doors of this industry to the federal government so they can see that not only does regulation work, but is an effective tool in combating the growing opioid crisis in this country.”

Public opinion and current momentum certainly support the continued growth of state-legal, highly regulated marijuana markets across the country. The recent formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus is evidence of this, and Bob Hoban has been working closely with U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’ office to make sure their efforts are fully supported. Composed of Congressional representatives from Colorado, California, Oregon and Alaska, the Caucus will provide a forum for members of the U.S. House of Representatives to discuss, learn, and work together to establish a better and more rational approach to federal cannabis policy.

In addition, yesterday’s response to Spicer’s comments from Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson proves that states with successful, regulated marijuana markets are prepared to stand up for their patients, business owners, residents and consumers. We hope that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman chooses to echo Ferguson’s response in defense of our state’s fastest growing new economy, and we expect that leaders from California, Oregon and Nevada to do the same. Senators in Oregon and Nevada are calling for similar support from their state attorneys general.

Spicer’s brief comments yesterday (less than two minutes during an hour-long press briefing) are nearly the first mention of any potential enforcement against marijuana businesses since the inauguration of President Trump in January. They must not be construed with any certainty, nor are they a basis for panic in a system where any actual direction for enforcement must come from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, not Trump’s press secretary.

Comments made by Jeff Sessions prior to and during his confirmation hearings set the tone that this issue is of low priority to the Trump administration, going so far as to encourage Congress to pass new marijuana laws if current ones are no longer in line with the vill of the American people. Spicer’s comments yesterday were short and deferent to AG Sessions and the Justice Department, who have been instructed to follow Trump’s campaign platform that marijuana policy is a state issue, not a federal one.

Of course we are sensitive to the potential for any changes in federal priorities that could negatively impact our clients. We have already heard from many of you that you are prepared to contribute serious resources for a federal lobbying effort should it come to that. And we want you to know that we are prepared to coordinate and lead that effort in your defense.

Thompson Coburn – Statement

But in short as we predicted in our blog of November 17, this gulf between the federal position and the state’s position on cannabis will continue to widen.  It is clear that recreational use of cannabis is now a target of federal enforcement, which we suspect is a compromise made by the Trump administration with its new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. It will now be critical for cannabis companies to separate their recreational business from their medical cannabis business in order to protect/insulate the medical side from these upcoming enforcement actions.

Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP

There’s a New Sheriff in Town: Is the Honeymoon Over for Recreational Cannabis?

By Adam J. Detsky

There are many sleepless nights ahead for Colorado cannabis entrepreneurs, their investors and every ancillary industry profiting from marijuana. Governor John Hickenlooper along with mayors and city councils throughout the state heard the words that have loomed over their budgets from the moment recreational marijuana passed and schools and communities began to reap the tax windfalls it created. Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, uttered those words: “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement.”

Mr. Spicer’s words were directed at arguably the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy: recreational marijuana. He was clear that his statements applied to the recreational sector only, providing some peace of mind to those cultivators and sellers who focus on the medicinal market. For the medical community, it was good news. For recreational license holders, however, it was a different message than was delivered during the presidential primaries, when Mr. Trump was quoted as saying: “I really believe we should leave it up to the states.” That statement alone wasn’t the ringing endorsement that the industry wanted, but it was cause for optimism. After all, the recreational cannabis market appears to align well with Mr. Trump’s agenda of creating jobs, filling previously vacant warehouses with American products and generating revenue without taxing the general population to death.

 But, political ideology aside, key persons within the new administration have never been particularly friendly toward cannabis. Vice President Mike Pence is the former governor of Indiana, one of the least progressive states in terms of maintaining comparatively severe criminal penalties for marijuana violations. The new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has also generated some concern. While marijuana decriminalization has advocates and opponents on both sides of the aisle, Mr. Sessions was already well known to the cannabis community for his words at an April 2016 Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, where he stated that the Senate needed to “send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Still, the industry looked for a silver lining among the growing storm clouds. They tried to put a positive spin on Senator Sessions, citing his January 2017 confirmation hearings where he acknowledged that enforcing federal marijuana laws would create an undue strain on federal resources, even though he explained moments later that he “won’t commit to never enforcing federal law.” But on February 23, 2017, Mr. Spicer’s words at the White House daily briefing were clear: “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement.” He explained, “There’s a big difference between [medical marijuana] and recreational marijuana, and I think when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.” He continued, “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.” That federal law, the Controlled Substances Act, still schedules marijuana as a narcotic with no recognized medicinal value, considering it to be more dangerous than cocaine and morphine.

This respresentation by the White House press secretary comes six months after the U.S. Department of Justice declined to reschedule marijuana. In doing so, the DOJ explained that before it reconsiders its position, additional research will be needed ─ research that will require years of data collection.

Mr. Spicer’s comments also appear to be at odds with pending legislation. Just two weeks ago, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California sponsored House Bill H.R. 975, named the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017. The bill seeks to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow states to continue with legalization without fear of a federal crackdown, essentially providing immunity from federal prosecution so long as the requirements of state law and the DOJ’s Cole Memorandum are strictly followed. To the extent this bipartisan bill passes, the fears within the recreational cannabis community could be assuaged. There have been other, similar bills proposed over the past few years, including the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, a bill also sponsored by Representative Rohrabacher that was defeated by a vote of 206-222.

Analysis

It remains unknown whether the new administration means to actively enforce federal law by targeting the budding recreational cannabis industry. The recent statement by Mr. Spicer may simply be a tactic meant to encourage the industry to ensure strict compliance with respective state laws, or it could prove inconsistent with the position of an administration known for sending mixed messages. Regardless, the retail segment of the cannabis market should be prepared to face its greatest challenge to date.

For now, the Cole Memorandum remains the guidance for U.S. state attorneys to follow. “We will follow that guidance until, if or when we receive new or amended guidance,” said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado. Since new guidance may be coming, the industry will need to take precautions to protect their investments. There may be a silver lining for the medical cannabis market. Although the value of medical sales and cultivation licenses in Colorado have been falling as recreational cannabis has boomed, these medical licenses may soon prove to be the real commodity as the medical sector starts to appear more stable. (http://www.businessinsider.com/marijuanas-getting-cheaper-in-colorado-2016-9)