The Department of Justice will announce today it will rescind lax marijuana policy guidance to US Attorneys (the so-called “Cole Memo”) and instead allow US Attorneys to exercise discretion in going after marijuana cases. The new memo will not call for arresting users or others with low-level involvement in marijuana, but instead makes investing in the marijuana industry a risky move.
“This is a good day for public health. The days of safe harbor for multi-million dollar pot investments are over,” said Kevin A. Sabet, a former Obama Administration drug policy adviser who is now head of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “DOJ’s move will slow down the rise of Big Marijuana and stop the massive infusion of money going to fund pot candies, cookies, ice creams, and other kid-friendly pot edibles. Investor, banker, funder beware.”
The Cole Memo and its compliance was blasted by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a 2016 report. The lead GAO author stated that DOJ “has not documented its plan for monitoring the effects of the state marijuana legalization.” A recent poll also found that when voters had more choices than just legalization or prohibition, support for legalization fell by 30%. Most voters were comfortable with laws removing criminal penalties for use but not legalizing sales, which the Cole Memo permitted.
“The Cole Memo had been waived around by money-hungry pot executives for years, searching for legitimacy among investors and banks,” remarked former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, a SAM Honorary Advisor. “It’s time we put public health over profits. This is a sensible move that now must be followed up with action so we can avoid a repeat of the nightmare of Big Tobacco.”
“Marijuana, along with alcohol and tobacco, are the three drugs we need to stop our youth from trying,” said Dr. Robert DuPont, the first Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and second White House drug czar. “DOJ is doing the right thing by putting a stop to this wink and nod policy of allowing marijuana legalization.”
Corinne Gasper, who lost her daughter Jennifer to a driver high on marijuana, stated, “All too often, marijuana has been seen as benign. An industry not unlike Big Tobacco has downplayed its harms, aided by laws allowing officials to look the other way. For the sake of so many families, I hope those days are now over.”
SAM, a non-profit organization founded by a former member of Congress and a former Obama Administration drug policy advisor, applauded the news. SAM’s Science Advisory board consists of more than a dozen top researchers in the field of marijuana policy ranging from institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins.
Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the former President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, stated, “This is the right move by DOJ. To protect public health, we must choke the large amounts of funding spent by Big Marijuana to hook kids on highly potent THC products.”
Justin Luke Riley, the Denver-based leader of the Marijuana Accountability Coalition stated, “Recovery from addiction is so much harder when you are bombarded with the kind of pot commercialization we see here in Colorado. DOJ should be applauded for trying to put a stop to the shameless promotion and advertising that is killing our community.”
Ron Brooks, the former head of the National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, stated, “This is the kind of leadership that will save lives. For too long law enforcement has been handcuffed by vague and unenforced policy guidance.”
Will Jones, a DC-resident who is fighting for social justice in minority communities commented, “Since the Cole Memo was released, the pot industry has relentlessly opened more pot shops in poorer, communities of color. Arrests are even higher now in many jurisdictions than before legalization.”
“Focusing enforcement resources on incarcerating low-level, nonviolent offenders will always be wrong and counterproductive,” said Kevin Sabet, President of SAM. “But there is an urgent need for Federal officials to reassert targeted control over an exploding industry that is undermining public health and safety in our communities. This is a major blow to an industry that is corrupting our politics and lying to voters in a steadfast pursuit to put profit over public health and safety. Today’s policy change will undoubtedly extend a chilling effect we have seen on marijuana legalization initiatives across the nation this year, and – hopefully – encourage lawmakers to stop and look at what science tells us about the unintended consequences of legal marijuana. Like the tobacco industry before it, well-heeled lobbyists from the marijuana industry have been touting marijuana commercialization as the panacea for every contemporary challenge we face in America, but the truth is, the health and safety costs caused by the commercialization of cannabis are outweighing any tax revenues collected.”