Jeff Sessions is unable to use his legal authority as US Attorney General — head of the Justice department — to extract voter dollars to crackdown on medical marijuana by way of a budgetary amendment titled the “Rohrabacher-Farr Act”.
While this lends a fair amount of protection to the medical industry across the country, the Justice Department has no such barriers blocking the use of federal funds to hastily move to rollback Obama-era drug policy, including the lax enforcement on recreational marijuana. Many local and state governments have begun crafting policy to combat a federal crackdown.
So, how is Seattle protecting marijuana from the feds?
At the state level, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has commented:”I will resist any efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the will of the voters in Washington state”. Governor Jay Inslee and AG Ferguson had sent a letter to Jeff Sessions mid-February, 2017, in an attempt to open a dialogue.
In the days since, unlike Colorado or Oregon, where the state legislature has been crafting policy specific to protecting their marijuana industries, Washington as a whole has not done so. As the largest cannabis consuming market in Washington, you’d think how Seattle is going to protect their marijuana industry from the feds would be something the city council would take further interest in, yet a search through introduced legislation shows the city is lacking any proposed protections beyond those already existing.
As a state operating a billion dollar cannabis industry, enforcement priorities can be as much as a message as conviction statistics, if not more. Seattle is going to protect their marijuana industry from the feds by how they prioritize marijuana-related crimes. For instance, the city passed an ordinance in 2003 making marijuana enforcement one of Seattle police department’s lowest enforcement priorities. Laws have changed in the last decade, yet marijuana enforcement remains a low priority for Seattle PD.
In effect, this forces Seattle police to issue warnings or, in the event of public consumption, to write them a $27 civil fine. The most obvious argument which can be extracted from this law: police can prioritize more serious offenses or other common (and actually harmful) problems within communities. For a man like Jeff Sessions – a supporter of both for-profit prisons and mandatory minimums – the argument resources are being used more effectively to target crime and maintain order in the city would seem to be effective.
In Colorado, the state legislature is attempting to pass two separate acts protecting their marijuana industry. The first piece of legislation would prevent state-based police or legal authorities from assisting federal efforts to deconstruct the industry and the second would allow recreational dispensaries to do a one-time immediate license change to medical from recreational. This would shield a large number of dispensaries from federal interference by way of the Rohrabacher-Farr Act.
When compared with how Seattle is going to protect their marijuana industry from the feds, the city seems less phased by any looming threat than Colorado or their southern neighbor, Oregon.
Oregon has passed a bill requiring all customer records, except those voluntarily provided (such as with a rewards program, email newsletter, etc..) to be entirely purged from the dispensary’s computer system. This would allow anonymity in who is purchasing, without providing any protection to businesses or their employees.
At this time, how Seattle is going to protect their marijuana industry from the feds is operating almost blindly when compared to Colorado or Oregon. Under the current city laws, police are not prohibited from aiding federal marijuana enforcement efforts and businesses or their employees are not protected. Will marijuana being the lowest enforcement priority, backed by state-supported resistance, be enough to stop Sessions.
Only time will tell.