Spicer's Comments on Federal Marijuana Enforcement Spark Disappointment, Unnecessary Speculation Within Industry
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 laws to change marijuana laws if current laws are no longer in line with the will 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.