In light of recent comments from the federal government and after the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, many states have been taking action to protect their legal cannabis industries from federal interference. In Washington state, for example, a bill was introduced which would ban state level law enforcement from working with federal law enforcement on cases regarding state-legal cannabis businesses. Now, Colorado lawmakers will be considering a bill that takes an entirely different route to protecting their flourishing cannabis industry.
The proposed bill, if passed, would allow recreational marijuana businesses to instantly have their licenses switched over to be registered with the medical marijuana industry “based on a business need due to a change in local, state, or federal law or enforcement policy.” What this basically means is that in the event that the federal government showed up to start seizing plants from recreational industry businesses there wouldn’t be any (or much) left to find, as the businesses would be registered with medical marijuana licenses instead of recreational ones.
“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,” said Sen. Tim Neville, a suburban Denver Republican who sponsored the bill.
The only reason that doing this would protect these businesses is because of memos that had been issued previously by the federal government that barred the Department of Justice from using funds to prosecute marijuana cases where the individuals being investigated are in compliance with state level medical marijuana laws. This memo was meant to ensure that patients did not lose access to a much needed medicine due to government interference, but it could end up saving the entire industry.
“It’s a big deal for our taxation system because this money has been coming in and has been set aside for this, that and the other,” said Sen. Lois Court, a Denver Democrat who voted against the bill.
Unfortunately there is one major downside to this plan – it would end up costing the state around $100 million because of the huge difference in taxation between medicinal and recreational cannabis. Some lawmakers believe this is not worth losing – but others are seeing the long-term goal, which is to keep these businesses running, keep their employees working and then when all is said and done they would be able to get that tax revenue back – it would be a lot harder to get the entire industry back that quickly, however.
Whether or not this bill will be passed and become law we will have to wait and see – but it really is good to see lawmakers doing what they can, and even considering sacrificing a huge amount of revenue for the state in order to keep their legal cannabis industry growing.