President Trump’s U.S. Attorney General nominee, William Barr, vowed to leave cannabis companies alone, so long as they’re compliant with state laws.
Barr, who previously served as Attorney General from 1991 to 1993 under the Bush (Senior) administration, made the announced last month during his Senate confirmation hearing. He also acknowledged that the updated farm bill will bring major changes to cannabis sales as we know them. After being pressed by senators, he decided to make it official by putting it in writing. Barr further intends to allow more legal growers to gain approval in order to fast track various cannabis research projects.
Back in the 90s, Barr successfully pushed for harsher punishments for drug offenders, stating that it was “simply a myth that there were sympathetic people and hapless victims of the criminal justice system.” But he seems to have changed his tune in recent years, at least when it comes to cannabis.
He referred to the Obama-era Cole Memo, which was a document drafted by former Attorney General James M. Cole in 2013. The memo stipulated that law enforcement and prosecutors should only focus their efforts on cannabis enterprises that are breaking explicit laws, such as distribution to minors and trafficking to illegal states. The Cole Memo made legal cannabis businesses that are following proper protocol off limits to raids and other legal ramifications. It was repealed last year by Attorney General at the time, Jeff Sessions.
“As discussed at my hearing, I do not intend to go after parties who have complied with state law in reliance on the Cole Memorandum,” said Barr. However, he also mentioned that he doesn’t aim to formally replace the Cole Memo, but rather create a new set of guidelines that will likely be very similar.
“I have not closely considered or determined whether further administrative guidance would be appropriate following the Cole Memorandum and the January 2018 memorandum from Attorney General Sessions, or what such guidance might look like,” he wrote in response to a question from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). “If confirmed, I will give the matter careful consideration.”
At this point, it’s still a bit too soon to tell exactly what his plans are. Check back for more updates on what’s to come in the ever-changing cannabis industry.