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Anti-Pot Group Says Cannabis Industry Violates Cole Memo

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In 2013, former deputy attorney general James Cole sent marijuana enforcement guidance to U.S. attorneys. Known as the Cole Memo, the guidance instructed federal prosecutors not to go after state-legal cannabis activities. This Justice Department policy has allowed state-legal marijuana markets to flourish.

On Aug. 30, the nation’s most prominent anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) sent a report to attorney general Jeff Sessions, “The Cole Memo: Four Years Later,” urging him to use limited federal resources to “target the big players in the marijuana industry… Large-scale marijuana businesses, several of which now boast of having raised over $100 million in capital, and their financial backers, should be a priority. These large businesses are pocketing millions by flouting federal law.

While the report stays away from recommending prosecuting individual consumers, it point-by-point argues that cannabis-legal states have failed to comply with the eight priorities set forth in the Cole memo, including preventing marijuana sales to minors and out-of-state diversion. The report claims that youth use of marijuana in Colorado “increased significantly” after stores there started selling cannabis to adults.

This followed letters Sessions sent to officials in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington on July 24 complaining about their legal cannabis programs (see “Sessions Gets Snubbed Prohibition Push” and “Freedom Leaf Interview: James Cole” in Issue 27).

“SAM’s frivolous claims are just another prohibitionist attempt to halt the positive strides of an industry that’s been proven to be an economic force in states where marijuana is legal,” stated Kevin Gallagher, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance.

SAM co-founder Kevin Sabet appears to have the attorney general’s ear. On the same day Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation  (March 2), he took a phone from Sabet, reported The Daily Beast.


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