What Would A Federal Marijuana Crackdown Look Like?

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director March 21, 2017
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
    Photo by Gage Skidmore

    Ever since the 2016 election, marijuana legalization supporters have been wondering if President Trump will crack down on state-approved recreational and/or medical marijuana programs. The Heritage Foundation believes it knows the answer.

    According to the conservative think tank, there are actions the government can take without needing to pass any new legislation or expend much political capital, such as reaffirming the federal government’s position as supporting marijuana’s illegality under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and reasserting support for the international treaties that require countries to enforce marijuana prohibition. These actions would make headlines, send a chill across the industry (particularly in states that have yet to formally launch their legal marijuana markets) and make clear the direction the White House has decided to go when dealing with legal marijuana businesses.

    The Washington, D.C.-based group calls for rescinding the Obama Administration’s Cole memo, which gives leeway to the states to implement legalization and replace it with a memo that makes it clear that the DOJ “fully expects states to not permit commercialized marijuana production and sale.” With this memo in place, the DOJ could then select a number of marijuana businesses for prosecution of a violation of state and/or federal law, which would create “a real threat of prosecution.”

    The right-wing policy shop recommends overturning previous guidance from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which opened the door to very limited banking for a handful of businesses in the marijuana industry. This would scare off the already minuscule number of financial institutions working, or considering working, with marijuana-related businesses. Using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the government could target investors.

    With all of this in mind, the only option we truly have to ensure our victories are upheld and that we move forward with nationwide legalization is to change federal law. Amendments such as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer stem the bleeding a bit, but require a new political fight every year. Congress needs to pass The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which would prevent the federal government from interfering in state-approved adult use or medical programs. Even better, Congress should remove marijuana from the CSA entirely.

    If you want to see the cannabis revolution continue, call your members of Congress today and tell them to support federal marijuana law reform. For more information on pending legislation and to easily email your elected officials, visit norml.org/act.

    77 responses to “What Would A Federal Marijuana Crackdown Look Like?”

    1. Denny Strausser Jr says:

      They are going to have one large problem on their hands, if they try to push federal law, and ignore the majority who want marijuana legalized.

      Cannabis is not a dangerous substance, and hasn’t killed a single person in all its years. Not even concentrates have killed anyone. And if they start cracking down as suggested, they might just end up with a war they can not afford. Or the states will fight it federally. They’ll sue the federal government for interfering. Either way I believe it’ll be legalized within five or 10 years. I was reading someplace someone stating it would probably be 10.

      In a way I hope so, as I want to invest in it before it jumps in the Stock Market. Once legal, stocks on it will go up, than come down a little after it has been legal for awhile.

      The feds should listen to its people in its decisions. Not just uphold tired legislation which doesn’t make much sense. It is time to legalize, not in 10 years, but NOW!

    2. Matt says:

      Been waiting for an article like this. Sessions could shut down every shop and it would STILL bbe legal in the states. Problem is, he would then order the governors to repeal the laws. Even if all THIS happened many people would simply go underground as well as turning to the black market. Many people would not CARE what the Feds wanted. There would be protest, speakeasy shops constantly popping up, even though state and local police would now be free to crackdown as well. The black market would be HUGE. Many more weed arrests. Just a theory, I know some may disagree with me. Personally, I sadly DO think he is going to use the DEA, in addition we would lose Nevada, Maine, and Mass. Why? All REPUBLICAN governors who would listen to Sessions and carry out repeals. I DO expect that Wash, Colo and especially Cali would IGNORE Sessions demands to repeal. Oh, we would also lose Alaska. So we would be left with three states. Sessions would drag them into FEDERAL COURT to force a repeal. Let us HOPE he does NOTHING. Which, and I know it is highly unlikely, believe it or not, MIGHT happen. He has alot of work on his hands if he wants a crackdown. DEA agents will also I predict face violent protests and resistance from some store owners, this is an issue Americans are SICK AND TIRED of, law rather. He also would have to worry about other states legalizing as well. Crackdown will probably happen in fall, as he has to figure out some way to deal with the movemment and the popularity, but it could happen any day now. I wake up outraged and sad every single day and check the news to see if the crackdown has begun. Let us stand STRONG, friends, and resist Sessions. We can do this. And, like I said, we need MORE STATES. If Cali had it’s over 1K shops open it would nearly impossible for him to crackdown, he would have to take it in segments as thee DEA only has several or so thousand agents. Let us hope he does NOTHING, and stand strong.

      • Brad says:

        Governors cannot repeal laws. He has no authority to “order” a state to repeal a law. All he can do is go to Federal Court to try to get courts to declare the state laws invalid and that’s a years long process that will wend it way up to the Supreme Court. I just don’t think he can subvert the will of millions of voters and survive politically—too much fallout.

        • Jay says:

          There is a thing in the constitution that is about state sovereignty. I’d the people who live in a state have a public vote the law voted in overrides the federal laws hands down. Look it up. This was done after the articles of confederation by Thomas Jefferson to make sure states could decide there own fate aND laws TJ also stated that state sovereignty will keep the government in check. If they try to take away the recipient states rules and the med states rules there will be civil war. But colleges are not teaching this stuff anymore. But I teach my kids in my class

          • Denny Strausser Jr says:

            I don’t believe there will be a Civil War.
            But if there is, I am willing to die for pot.
            The law makes no sense, and a lot of the Government knows this.

        • Richard South says:

          I agree. Sessions is trying to subvert the will of the people. He will have a fight on his hands and has no right to demand any state to do anything. The people are speaking for this issue. Just what the Republican party needs to do, start more underground problems.

      • willis says:

        the states will not give up the revenue that has been generated in legal states,with more to come.repeal is a non-starter…….

        • Chris says:

          He can’t order legalization on the state level be overturned. Obviously it would never happen, but to make a point a state could legalize murder if it wanted to and even that couldnt be overturned by the feds. It would only be illegal for the States to impede federal enforcement. The states keeping legalization would be the equivalent of a parent catching their teenager smoking weed and saying I don’t care if you do it but if the other parent catches you, then your own your own. In this case the states refer the the first parent and the feds to the other.

          • Chris says:

            Also I would like to add the feds have always mentioned they might overturn state laws. When California became the first state to legalize medical in the early 90s the feds considered actions and it was unclear what Obama would do after WA and CO legalized recreational in 2012

    3. Matt says:

      Oh yes, and we need to hurry up wth the Acts mentioned and then he would be virtually powerless. He would have to resort to the Federal Courts and argue Supremacy Clause. I could say much more on this as I feel the passion and the rage, and will back on here later. Thank you for now.

    4. Matt says:

      also, very good article and some truly frightening ideas. More later…..I have more to say later on.

    5. Joel: the other Joel says:

      The remedy of all is to remove marijuana off the Control Substance Act of 1970 entirely. Historically WE all know why it was there in the first place as Class One substance. It doesn’t matter if you believe in any of the propaganda, the joke classifying it as a dangerous drug still remains.

    6. Travis Lippert says:

      We will disobey. They can’t throw all of us in jail.

    7. Dark000wing says:

      So let me get this straight. We are supposed to Believe the sky is falling because some old white guy wants to praise Nancy Regan era strategies while denying substantial evidence regarding medical effectiveness and public opinion.

      All this while anyone (and I do mean anyone) can access legal cannabis in and around the district?

      Really? The most honest thing this guy said regarding cannabis is when he acknowledged that the federal government does not have the manpower to enforce federal prohibition laws. And even if enforced, the next stop in the assembly line of the criminal justice system at the federal level would easily be overwhelmed by attempts to prosecute the large number of independent operations that continue to grow.

      The reality is this. Marketplace innovations have increased acesss in ways that make traditional law enforcement obsolete. And.. unchecked youth and young adult access has led to a more “informed populace”.

      Keep up with the advocacy! We are winning!

      • Julian says:

        I agree. I believe California delivery services can run circles around the DOJ, literally. Asset forfeitures? Gonna have to catch my @$$! Already too much state revenue from legal job creation has taken place to make a crackdown anything but a disaster for the GOP.
        I still worry about a Federal injunction invoking the Supremacy Clause, but that hinges on either passing HR 975 or renewing the Rorhabacher-Farr amendment, which hinges on us taking action, clicking on the Act tab and calling our Federal reps.

    8. NOMAD says:

      You wanted him! Well you got him! Now live with it for four years!

      • don says:

        You speak to 20% of the population in the US.

        • Donna says:

          20% rules over the 80%. What is the 80% excuse? Lazy? Unconcerned? Stoned? Whatever the excuse it is muted against the reality of the next four year. Get involved 80% or get lost – but that’s what you’ve done already isn’t it?

          • Julian says:

            “Oooooh DOonna…
            Ooooooh Doonna…
            I had a girl…
            Donna was her name…
            Since she wrote here I
            Get 20 percent blame
            But I love getting stoned
            …and voting…
            So where…
            can I be?
            Am I IN the Twen-ty?

            (The bridge…)
            Voter supressions
            In league with Sessions
            Does she even care?

            She’s right to take notice
            Were divided for POTUS
            But smoking weed helps my heart care…
            Under there…

            Ooooh Donna…
            Smoke maaaaarijuana…
            Ooooor youre goonna
            Be twenty percent, Donna…
            (High pitch 50s fade out…)

            (Thank you. Great crowd. All %20 of you…)

          • Mark Mitcham says:

            That doesn’t mean much, coming from you. You always like to drop your load of unhelpful judgements against others, but you never offer to actually help in any way.

            Are you hitting the “take action” tab? Are you sending the letters to your representatives? Are you donating to NORML? What ARE you doing to legalize marijuana?

            Do you serve any helpful function? What use are you, anyway?

    9. TheOracle says:

      A crackdown would be the feds stealing from the piggy banks of the cannabis community. Thieves! They want to put people out of business and stop people from getting legal jobs in states that want to implement legalization AND those states that are poised to legalize adult recreational. Where is their jobs plan? Shift AND shaft? Shift the money saved from doing the dirty on ObamaCare and shaft 24 million people out of health insurance, is what it is, so that rich bastards who are already rich can get richer.

      The rich never have enough money.

      The everyman or everywoman ought to be treated like a mensch, you know, and taking away their health care just ain’t right. If Trump is such a great dealmaker, why the hell doesn’t he get the health insurance providers and the health care providers (hospitals, clinics, etc.) to give the public better deals. They all ought to give us better deals! Not give us no deal and the boot!

      This administration is hellbent on doing some damage to Americans they promised to have the government do better by.

      I sure would like to see them do better by the cannabis community. Why would you want to put people out of work without SPECIFIC PLANS to create jobs to replace the ones you just made illegal and put back in the hands of the (Mexican) cartels?

      Will Trump meet with a polite group of pro-cannabis, pro-legalization lobbyists and delegates? Someone needs to advise him to legalize.

    10. saferinneworleans says:

      We can just keep our hundred mil in taxes in our pockets.

      • Donna says:

        I’ve tried. It is very uncomfortable sitting for a long time.

        • saferinneworleans says:

          Yep. It doesn’t amount to anything from me – but it is interesting to see the buying power and transformational potential of marijuana consumers. Looks like we could produce a hundred million per good-sized state, in taxes to help with roads and schools and what all. Alcohol related traffic fatalities among young adults will go down. Prescription drug related overdose deaths will go down. Beer sales will go down. Meanwhile teen use will remain flat. Problem drug users – and underage drug use suggests, if not defines, “problem” – will still use drugs. But the prevalence of a safe alternative will keep some of them alive. I don’t know why the Heritage Foundation has to hate. I guess they are a hate group.

          • Julian says:

            It took me 3 seconds to google “Who funds the Heritage Foundation”


            But I already knew the Koch Brothers did because of good investigative reporting from Greg Pallast over the Crosscheck program:


            See the Kochs and a group of evil batman villain billionaires like the Mercers, John Paulsen and Sheldon Adelson would like us divided over every political issue including marijuana policy in order to achieve high rates of voter supression. Nobody votes? Bad billionaires get to make bad laws like the CSAct. Its that simple.
            Whats not so simple is motivating people to ACT, to VOTE, to PARTICIPATE like clicking on the Green Act Tab on this webpage… because the Kochs pay off all sides so the Dems will throw the fight unless WE contact our state and federal Congressman to make better marijuana policy and cut the Koch-lead tax-evading bull$#!+ out of our state and federal legislatures. How many years have I read… “bbbut the Kochs like marijuana… they donate to some magazine that talks about weed…” Yeah, like when they paid for summer interns for the Drug Policy Alliance and they turned out to be moles? They “donate” for “good” press then use the info they mine to develop policies to protect their precious petroleum patents that would never be able to compete in a fair domestic hemp economy.