Nevada County, state medical marijuana advocates discuss Sen. Jeff Sessions
November 28, 2016
The appointment of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to the position of attorney general could potentially push policy in a direction that suits the California Growers Association, one medical marijuana advocate said.
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the CGA, said that Sessions (R-Alabama) — who once noted that "… good people don't smoke marijuana" — could slow the implementation of marijuana law, which would give state government more time to build a robust regulatory framework.
Allen is quick to emphasize that Sessions' beliefs about cannabis resemble a War-on-Drugs mentality — a terrifying position for medical marijuana growers. Any policy change under Sessions that the CGA favors, he said, would be an unintended consequence.
"It's no secret we thought Prop 64 was moving too fast," Allen said, referring to the Nov. 8 ballot initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in California.
According to Allen, the best way to protect growers from federal overreach is to have a strong regulatory system in place. He figures the federal government would back off medical cannabis, which now exists in some form in over half the nation's states, and focus any prosecutions on recreational pot.
If the federal government treats medical and recreational cannabis differently, pressure would push the state to follow suit.
Federal law calls for long prison sentences for those with large grows. Allen said growers who are in compliance with state law would have less reason to worry — an argument he uses for why local governments should issue permits for growers.
State law requires growers obtain permits from both state and local governments. Nevada County intends to create new grow rules next year.
Jonathan Collier, with the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, said Sessions would find it difficult to shutter medical marijuana across the country.
"The popular support is really strong," Collier said, adding moments later, "We're going to continue to move forward on that point."
Both Collier and Allen want to see how the next attorney general reacts to the Cole Memo. That memo penned in 2013 by Deputy Attorney General James Cole sets guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that have legalized medical marijuana. It draws distinctions between patients and large-scale, for-profit enterprises.
Collier expects the new attorney general to release an updated memo.
"Will the Cole Memo be honored?" he questioned. "Will it be retracted? Will it be modified?"
Collier's group remains in a holding pattern until the new administration takes over. He intends to continue encouraging growers to maintain a high code of ethics.
"Our best move forward is solving the problems that face our community," he added.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.