Baked Goods: Fall Sessions Watch

Joshua Lee
5 min read
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There’s a smell to autumn. As the leaves change, it creeps into the air and gives everything a crisp and lively charge. There’s an urgency to autumn. The doors are about to close, and it’s all rush rush rush.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions started the season early. A few weeks ago, he stepped out in front of the cameras and
reminded everyone that cannabis is still illegal—as if we’d forgotten—during a press conference in San Diego announcing record-breaking narcotics seizures by the US Coast Guard in fiscal 2017. By now, most of us barely register these types of comments from Ol’ Sessions. The bastard seems to scuttle out of his hole every few months to say something grave and nebulous before returning to his lair. Nothing happens.

This time it’s making me pause, though. Earlier in the month, Sessions’ second in command, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—a squirrelly drip of a man—made the announcement that the Department of Justice would be
reviewing the Cole Memo. “We are reviewing that policy. We haven’t changed it, but we are reviewing it. We’re looking at the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, trying to evaluate what the impact is,” he told a group of mostly conservatives at a function for the Heritage Foundation.

The “
Cole Memo” was a document written by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole during the Obama administration that laid out the DOJ’s enforcement policy as it pertains to cannabis. The memo said they would continue to enforce federal laws, but would not prioritize cannabis enforcement in legalized states. The DOJ still operates under those guidelines, but Rosenstein’s comments make it sound like there might be a policy change in the future.

Medical Cannabis Protections Extended

But any heat Sessions wants to put on the states is going to have to wait until December. President Donald Trump—lord of the colonies—struck a deal with Democrats earlier this month as part of a budget agreement and
extended the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer clause (a.k.a. Rohrabacher-Farr)—which bans the use of federal funds to prosecute medical cannabis businesses operating in states where it’s legal. By approving the clause, he ultimately stepped on some GOP members toes, since a committee from the Republican-held House rejected the amendment for inclusion in a federal budget less than a week before.

The protection offered by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer clause now extends through Dec. 8.

Head of DEA Resigns

Acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency Chuck Rosenberg just resigned. Was it because he
called medical cannabis a “joke?” Was it because he said “marijuana is not medicine?” Not according to the New York Times. They said it was because he thought the Great Lord Trump “had little respect for the law.”

Nevertheless, Rosenberg has played right during his tenure, and no Judge Dredd-types have come kicking doors down in states where it’s legal. He took over the agency in 2015 after
Administrator Michele Leonhart stepped down. Leonhart was no friend to cannabis, as you might remember. She even refused to admit in front of a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security that cannabis was less dangerous than crack, heroin or methamphetamine. She had to resign when an inspector general report found instances of DEA agents having sex parties in Colombia with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels. Rosenberg’s been the acting administrator ever since.

It seems that one of the proverbial straws that broke Rosenberg’s back was the firing of FBI director James Comey earlier this year, whom Rosenberg served under as chief of staff. Another possible straw was a
speech given by Lord Trump to a crowd of Long Island police officers. In it, he said, “… when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’ Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you’re protecting their head—you know, the way you put your hand over [their head]. Like, don’t hit their head, and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head—I said, ‘You can take that hand away, okay?’”

Rosenberg was plenty unhappy with that speech. In response, he sent an email to all DEA employees telling them not to mistreat suspects. “We must earn and keep the public trust and continue to hold ourselves to the very highest standards,” he wrote.

His resignation might seem like it was long-coming, but it puts cannabis in a tenuous spot. Rosenberg was a holdover from the Obama administration and was one of the few people keeping the threat of Sessions off our doorsteps. But as I said, he was only acting head of the DEA, and Lord Trump could have replaced him any time. This just means it has to happen now. But does it bode well for the cannabis industry? Probably not.
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