Cannabis Advocates, Governors Demand Guidance on Interstate Cannabis from DOJ

A faction of cannabis groups is encouraging the business community to accompany them in demanding governors from four important states to seek guidance from the appropriate judicial bodies regarding interstate cannabis commerce.

Formally known as ‘The Alliance for Sensible Markets campaign’ members are currently gathering a sign-on letter for those curious about putting force on the governors of California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington to secure the ask. The alliance wants the Justice Department to define what it would do if two or more legal cannabis states agreed to regulate commerce between one another, a la interstate commerce.

At this time, each state’s cannabis market is engulfed within its own borders. For instance, cannabis sold and smoked in Massachusetts is also cultivated in MA. instead of being produced in another legal cannabis state like California, where it may cause environmental sense to manage outdoor cannabis cultivation.

The letter to governors that the alliance will be sending states the problem would be resolved largely if cannabis is federally legalized. However, ‘while federal legalization of cannabis feels certain, it could still be [a few years] away.’ In the meantime, the Justice Department ought to weigh in by including enforcement guidance.’.

The group also noted that the Department of Justice presented since-rejected guidance under the Obama presidency that ordinarily laid out enforcement precedences for federal prosecutors regarding state-legal cannabis exchanges. Moreover, a congressional spending measure has been routinely replenished, preventing the department from using its funding to interpose in medicinal cannabis programs.

While Biden has maintained resistance to adult-use cannabis legalization, he has repeatedly stated that he thinks states should be left to make their own cannabis policy choices. Whether that stance extends to the concept of interstate commerce is unknown.

And as the alliance pointed out, the attorney general, during his confirmation proceedings, also said in oral and written testimony that it’s a waste of federal resources to go after people acting in compliance with state cannabis laws. Again, he did not specifically address interstate commerce.

The group wants the governors to send a distinct message to the Justice Department: Their states ‘can’t afford to hesitate; for U.S. Congress to quickly get to passing a federal legalization measure.

Current co-sponsors for this push include NORML, the Cannabis Distribution Association, Weed for Warriors Project, and many others. The plan is to gather endorsements from supplemental stakeholders over the forthcoming weeks and send the letter to the governors by December 15.

The opportunity to put this application to these four specific governors is by design. They serve established cannabis states that could help meet the need for cannabis in states where it’s not as easy to grow cannabis for consumers and adult patients.

New York and New Jersey are consumer states; where the climate is less favorable to large-scale outdoor cannabis cultivation. That means a lot of the products in those states will be cultivated indoors, which demands energy-draining lighting. Conversely, Oregon cannabis growers can easily cultivate cannabis in outdoor fields at will using the unrestricted lighting of the sun.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) has already indicated that she would be on board for such a bill regarding cannabis and interstate commerce. Gov. Brown signed a measure into law back in 2019 that protects cannabis being imported and exported from other states if federal law or policy provides the appropriate guidance. Cannabis activists had anticipated getting a similar bill enacted in California last year. However, the coronavirus pandemic derailed the plans.

Two congressional legislators who’ve previously laid the groundwork for the cannabis policy change are Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Quickly after Oregon’s governor passed the interstate commerce bill mentioned above, the federal legislators filed a measure that would likewise allow for similar activity, barring the Justice Department from interposing in states with approving agreements to retail cannabis across state lines. The bill did not advance.

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