AG Letter to WA State Officials: Cole Memorandum Allows DOJ Enforcement | Marijuana

AG Letter to WA State Officials: Cole Memorandum Allows DOJ Enforcement


Attorney General Jeff Sessions has some rather sobering concerns with the implementation of recreational marijuana in Washington State.

Washington State legalized adult-use marijuana by passing Initiative 502 during the 2012 general election. Now, almost five years after the fact, the country’s attorney general has officially put the state’s policymakers on notice.

Sessions, in a letter addressed to Washington State Attorney General Robert Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee, started off with a congenial tone that quickly devolved into a not-so-veiled threat.

“Thank you for your letters of February 15, 2017, April 3, 2017, and May 8, 2017, which I have attached to this letter as Exhibits A, B, and C for your convenience. I was pleased to read that you share my concern for public health and safety and my belief that the federal and state governments should work together to address our country’s concerns with marijuana. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a crime.”

Loaded with subtext, Sessions’ letter to Ferguson and Inslee explains, “The Department remains committed to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in a manner that efficiently applies our resources to address the most significant threats to public health and safety.”

Voters in Washington State passed I-502 in 2012 with 56 percent of the vote. Since that historic moment, the state’s recreational marijuana industry has cultivated more than $2 billion in total revenue and more than $400 million in state taxes, purportedly following the regulatory structure outlined by the Cole Memorandum.

The AG’s letter cites findings from a 2016 report by the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) as a cause for concern.

  • Black and Grey market growth due to lack of regulation
  • Lack of regulation, oversight, and transparency
  • Interstate transportation of Washington’s marijuana
  • Underage participation
  • Driving while high
  • 17 extraction labs exploded
  • 54% increase in marijuana-related calls to State Poison Control Center Between 2012 – 2014

According to Sessions’ letter, “These findings are relevant to the policy debate concerning marijuana legalization. I appreciate your offer to engage in a continuing dialogue on this important issue. To that end, please advise as to how Washington plans to address the findings in the Northwest HIDTA report, including efforts to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws, to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors.”

A fan of states’ rights and federalism when he supports a specific ideology, Sessions seemingly loathes the fact that individual states have snubbed the federal government and legalized adult-use cannabis. Warned by Gov. Inslee that the Trump Administration and its Department of Justice would be “on the wrong side of history” for pursuing a policy of national prohibition, Sessions has continued to push the low-rent philosophy of prohibition for all.

Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett

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My name is Monterey Bud and I was born in Long Beach and raised on the central coast. I surf, dab, burn and write. I'm a husband, a father and a lifelong consumer of connoisseur grade weed. I have been writing about marijuana strains, science, and politics for since 2012. A Big Sur cultivator from the pre-helicopter days, I'm a big fan of new strains and breaking news. I can be reached on Twitter @MontereyBud


  1. @MontereyBud is misreading the Sessions letter. The letter is actually good news because it affirms the Cole memo enforcement standard. This does NOT signal a change in federal enforcement standards regarding states with a legal, regulated marijuana program. Instead, Sessions is seeking assurance that WA state will administer its marijuana program in a manner that addresses non-compliance with the state standard. I don’t see why that’s newsworthy- seems consistent with the status quo.
    Luke Jones, MD NORML

  2. @Luke Jones, thanks for your comment and input.
    I agree that Sessions quoting of the Cole Memorandum is good news, in that it seems he intends on following it. But the AG’s letter also seemingly insinuated that the feds are looking for a red herring to intervene on state policy. While it may not signal a change in past “federal enforcement standards,” it doesn’t negate the zeal in which our embattled head of the DOJ will enforce them.

  3. Those liars in southern Colorado are nothing but sore losers. Nothing they say is true they are liars and thieves of the worst sort. Jeffy was expecting the propaganda lies to come true and let him say that cannabis caused violence. But the FBI put a stopper in that idea. They state that states with legal cannabis have lower rates of violent crimes.

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