As America’s cannabis industry waits to learn if the Trump Administration will crack down on adult-use marijuana with “greater enforcement”, legal states have begun forging their own contingency plans.
Should “greater enforcement” come on a federal level, Colorado Government officials want to allow recreational cannabis businesses to transfer and reclassify all adult-use cannabis inventory to medical marijuana inventory. Retail dispensaries would also be able to switch their licensing to medical marijuana.
Sponsored by Republican Senator Tim Neville, a Colorado Senate Committee voted 4-1 in favor of the bill last week. To become law, the bill would have to pass a full Colorado Senate vote and a House vote before being signed by the governor.
Neville believes this loophole and plan for the pot-apocalypse will allow the industry to breathe easier, saying, “The bill allows the industry to know there is something after tomorrow, whatever tomorrow may bring.” Neville added, “If there is a change in federal law, then I think all of our businesses want to stay in business somehow. They’ve made major investments” and “need to be able to convert that product into the medical side so they can sell it.”
As of last June, over half of Colorado’s approximately 827,00 cannabis plants found in the state’s retail system were labeled in the state’s tracking service as recreational marijuana plants. Those 400,000+ recreational cannabis plants are grown by licensed recreational marijuana growers.
This proposed bill would allow all 500+ licensed recreational growers to transfer over to medical licenses. For the state Neville represents, federal action and an industry transfer from recreational back to strictly medical would hurt the state’s coffers and would actually aid cannabis growers’ profit margins.
Colorado taxes recreational cannabis at a 17.9% rate while the state taxes medical marijuana at a 2.9% rate. That 15% difference in tax dollars from a potential switch to medical could cost the state over a $100 million a year in tax revenue.
Of course, if the federal government’s threat of “greater enforcement” is just that — a veiled threat — neither Colorado nor any of the United States’ eight legal states would need to act on their contingency plans. To combat the hypothetical federal crackdown, California legislators are discussing banning local and state authorities from working with federal authorities targeting cannabis businesses.
Since Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments about “greater enforcement” of federal law in late March, conflicting reports have surfaced regarding a federal crackdown.
A Politico report quoted various Senators who claimed Attorney General Jeff Sessions “privately assured” them that he’d respect the Cole Memo, an Obama policy that allows states’ rights regarding marijuana enforcement. More recent reports show Sessions maintaining the opinion that marijuana is a blight on society.
Every state with recreational marijuana has medical marijuana, making a transfer from recreational industries to medical industries pragmatic (albeit a nuisance). Should Colorado’s found bill hold up, all federal enforcement would accomplish is detracting tax dollars from legal states by forcing these legal states’ recreational markets to revert back to medical markets.