There aren’t many U.S. Department of Justice officials who would be “rock stars” period, let alone at a San Jose legal cannabis industry expo.
But I’m here to tell you: There was such a star in our midst at this conference…
I’m talking about former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole.
Back in 2013, he was the No. 2 official at the Justice Department who authored the now-famous “Cole Memo.”
That memorandum ordered federal agents to leave states with legalized marijuana well enough alone – as long as they had adopted a clear regulatory framework for doing so. The landmark memo gave the states and federal law enforcement a kind of legal modus vivendi for regulated cannabis, allowing each party to “look the other way.”
The memo was instrumental in helping a multibillion-dollar legal weed sector take root and thrive.
So it’s no surprise that, as a keynote speaker at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo in San Jose July 25-27, Cole was treated like a conquering hero.
I had the chance to catch up with him privately beforehand to hear what he had to say.
The Former Lawman Was the “Man of the Hour”
Many attending the summit were able to enter the cannabis industry in the last few years – and prosper, too, by the stories I heard – thanks to Cole’s groundbreaking work and that memo. So they wanted to thank him.
Yes, earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo. You’ll recall that sent weed stocks tumbling briefly, but just like I said at the time, it proved to be the perfect buying opportunity.
Besides, Sessions’ ever more–retrograde views don’t really concern those here in San Jose.
That’s because a workaround is in progress: a permanent, federal-level solution to the problem of state sovereignty vs. federal drug laws.
In fact, Sessions’ boss, U.S. President Donald Trump, recently said he supports a bipartisan bill known as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would allow each state to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.
Because it’s based on states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the bill has remarkably broad support from conservatives. According to my sources, it enjoys wide support in both the House of Representatives and Senate.