Smart Approaches to Marijuana President Kevin Sabet, middle. (Bryan Bedder, Getty Images)

Anti-legalization group urges feds to “systematically shut down” cannabis industry

Jeff Sessions has more reading about marijuana regs on his desk.

This month, governors from Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana, each sent letters to the attorney general defending their respective regulatory regimes, designed to uphold the Cole Memo. That Obama-era memo outlined law enforcement and financial oversight priorities for states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.

On the fourth anniversary of the memo, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a nonprofit group opposed to marijuana legalization, announced it had sent a report to Sessions and other lawmakers detailing how those states have failed to live up to the responsibilities outlined.

Based on its report, “The Cole Memo: 4 Years Later,” SAM recommended that Sessions “take measured action to successfully protect public health and safety. Limited federal resources should be used to target the big players in the marijuana industry who are circumventing (Department of Justice) guidance and state regulations.”

In a phone conference Wednesday, Kevin Sabet, SAM’s president, went further, saying, “We do not want individuals prosecuted — we want the industry to be accountable. This industry — starting from the top — should be systematically shut down.”

The SAM report says that Colorado, Oregon and Washington have failed to comply with seven of the eight guidelines of the Cole Memo, which include preventing access to minors, flow to other states, drugged driving and growing of the plant on federal lands. As a result, Sabet said, the states “are inviting a shift in enforcement.”

In the recommendations from the report SAM says cannabis businesses “​​are ​pocketing ​millions ​by ​flouting ​federal ​law, ​deceiving Americans ​about ​the ​risks ​of ​their ​products, ​and ​targeting ​the ​most ​vulnerable. ​They ​should ​not have ​access ​to ​banks, ​where ​their ​financial ​prowess ​would ​be ​expanded ​significantly, ​nor should ​they ​be ​able ​to ​advertise ​or ​commercialize ​marijuana.”

The SAM report echoes some of Sessions’ own claims in recent letters to the governors of the four states, stating, “States ​with ​legal ​marijuana ​are ​seeing ​an ​increase ​in drugged ​driving crashes ​and youth ​marijuana ​use. ​States ​that ​have ​legalized ​marijuana ​are ​also failing ​to ​shore up ​state ​budget ​shortfalls ​with ​marijuana ​taxes, ​continuing ​to ​see ​a ​thriving ​illegal black ​market and ​are ​experiencing ​an unabated ​sales ​of ​alcohol… State ​regulatory ​frameworks ​established ​post-legalization ​have ​failed ​to ​meet ​each ​of the ​specific ​DOJ ​requirements ​on ​controlling ​recreational ​marijuana ​production, ​distribution, ​and use.”

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Cannabist interview with SAM’s Kevin Sabet in July 2015:

Also on the call announcing the SAM report was John Jackson, chief of police for Greenwood Village in Colorado. The commercialization of marijuana has “offended” even people who voted for legalization, he said.

“People see billboards, articles in the newspaper, internet ads and say, ‘I voted for it, but this isn’t what I voted for. This isn’t what I thought was going to happen with the dabbing and access to minors,'” he said.

In outlining its case against Colorado’s marijuana regulatory regime, The SAM report cited multiple news stories from The Cannabist and The Denver Post, including:

Former marijuana enforcement officer, entrepreneur indicted in massive Colorado trafficking ring
Exclusive: Traffic fatalities linked to marijuana are up sharply in Colorado. Is legalization to blame?
Hiker finds illegal marijuana grow worth $7 million in San Isabel National Forest
Crime rate in Colorado increases much faster than rest of the country
Pot problems in Colorado schools increase with legalization
More Colorado pot is flowing to neighboring states, officials say

Read the report

SAM the Cole Memo 4 Years Later Status Report (Text)

Read the Cole Memo

Cole Memo (Text)