Until last week, the most important news to date for the cannabis industry, in my view, was the 2013 Cole Memorandum, which gave the green light to Colorado and Washington to move forward with cannabis legalization.
The memorandum specified eight priorities for Department of Justice attorneys with respect to enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act and created a safe harbor for regulators and businesses in states that permitted adult access to cannabis. With that guidance from the government, cannabis businesses invested with confidence that they wouldn’t wake up to asset forfeitures or even arrest, and we have seen rapid growth in these states and others subsequently.
Cannabis stocks soared on Friday’s announcement of the Trump-Gardner deal, with the Global Cannabis Stock Index rising 8.8% in about one hour.
The Cole Memorandum’s fundamental flaw of being only guidance became very clear with the change in the Presidency in late 2016.
By early 2018, the Cole Memorandum was ripped up, leaving the industry technically facing a great deal of uncertainty, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened the door to prosecution at the discretion of individual department attorneys.
The recent budget bill left some protections for medical cannabis businesses and patients intact, but these protections last only until September, when they must be renewed or face expiration.
On Friday afternoon, the Washington Post broke a story that could transform the cannabis industry, with Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado announcing a deal with President Trump that would cease his blocking of DOJ nominations in exchange for Presidential support for potential congressional legislation that would offer protection to state-legal cannabis programs. While a lot of work must be done, and one can never assume that a proposed deal will result in a law, this is a really big deal, as the legal framework for