U.S. Attorney General alarms Oregon cannabis industry

Jeff Session’s opposition to legalized pot threatens fast-growing industry.

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By now everyone knows Oregon’s cannabis industry is thriving. Revenues continue to beat estimates — $60.2 million at last count — and there are more than 900 licensed retailers across the state.

Enter the new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose opposition to legal pot is well documented

Oregon industry representatives and pot-friendly policy makers are worried — yet cautiously optimistic.

“We strongly feel that the horse has left the barn with more than half of the states with some sort of legalization and polling as strong as it is,” says Amy Margolis, acting director of the Oregon Cannabis Association “We are trusting that the Republicans, who have favored state’s rights in many other cases will support them when it comes to cannabis.”

Margolis says OCA trusts that the impressive tax revenue figures and resulting industry jobs are enough to convince Sessions to leave legalization alone.

U.S Rep. Earl Blumenauer says Trump is the real unknown.

“We’ve seen some positive signs that the Administration isn’t prioritizing rolling back federal marijuana policy and acknowledged the resource constraints in doing so,” Blumenauer says. “We will continue with our progress in Congress and hope the Administration will follow our lead. Now is the time to keep the momentum going, not go back in time.”

What are the chances Sessions will try and roll back marijuana laws? Margolis, a cannabis lawyer, says he has the power to shut down the industry completely.

“This could happen either through affirmative action or just invalidating the Cole Memo,” she says. The memo provides federal guidance on marijuana prosecution. “Although we are very hopeful that won’t happen.”

Oregon’s Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum echoes those hopes and concerns.

“Under the Obama administration, the Cole memo provided legal advice that shifted away from federal enforcement of marijuana prohibition, and allowed Oregon to grow our legal marijuana industry,” Rosenblum says.

“Part of my role as Oregon Attorney General is to provide legal advice to state agencies that are actively engaged in building a new industry in our state. It remains to be seen if the new administration will replace — or revise — this important piece of federal legal advice. But, regardless, we will make sure that we protect the growing industry that we have.”