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Congress: Include recreational cannabis, protect states’ rights – it’s not a heavy lift

Cannabis is freedom. Whether possessing it for personal consumption, or building a large-scale cultivation, manufacturing, or retail business, it’s all an expression of freedom.

It’s the freedom to choose what type of medicine you want, or intoxicant to consume recreationally, or not to consume at all. States across the nation are creating freedom for their citizens, and Canada has decided to move forward with creating a national recreational cannabis policy. Canada is creating freedoms for its entire nation, while here, in the “land of the free,” struggles with this issue continue.

A state legalizing cannabis for commercial sales is the 21st century’s ultimate expression of freedom of states’ rights. This is granting privilege or recognizing rights created by voters within its boundaries to its citizens and visitors that only it can provide, which was the point of the 10th amendment to the United States Constitution.

So far, some 40 states have legalized some form of recreational, medical, CBD only, or decriminalization of cannabis, and more, right now, are still debating full legalization or increased access in their legislative bodies.

This week Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper met with United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss Colorado’s legal and regulated cannabis industry. AG Sessions gave the governor no clear direction about the Department of Justice’s approach to state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis sales. He was in fact, ambiguous, stating “you haven’t seen us cracking down on anyone yet, have you?”

He’s clearly looking for Congress to provide him with direction on recreational cannabis.

It’s time for Congress to pass legislation affirming the 10th amendment applies to cannabis, whether it’s medical or recreational, and direct the agencies that enforce drug laws to uphold the legality of those state sanctioned businesses. There are 80 United States senators and some 375 representatives in the House that represent states that have legalized some form of cannabis use. Why wouldn’t they be held to the expectations of protecting their home state’s governmental rights?

Members of Congress are citizens of the state they represent, and these states want legal cannabis. In fact, the entire nation wants legalized cannabis. Our elected officials need to act in the best interest of the people who put them there, and give the Department of Justice and other agencies clear direction that when a state legalizes recreational or medicinal cannabis, it is a “hands off” policy on those who follow the laws and regulations put in place by the state. Those who choose to black market, or use a legal business to cover illegal activity, should be the focus of the enforcement authorities, at both the state and federal level.

Without clear guidance from Congress, the Trump administration is left to determine its own policies on enforcement of current laws. Their clear preference is not to barge in and disrupt states’ rights, but the lack of action on the part of Congress to protect the recreational markets, and the hundreds of thousands of employees in the tens of thousands of American businesses that have been created across the nation, is far more harmful than ambiguous statements from the administration.

In last year’s spending package, Congress approved an amendment to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and U.S. attorneys from prosecuting or harassing citizens engaged in legal medical marijuana activities, sanctioned by the state. That amendment provided clear direction on the federal involvement in those states with cannabis laws specific to medical marijuana. It was what the Trump administration has pointed to as being necessary for Congress to do for recreational cannabis in order for clarity to be provided for everyone.

So what’s preventing Congress from taking action on this exact issue? Virtually nothing. While there are excellent bills being considered in Congress about making banking more accessible, and to regulate cannabis like alcohol, Sean Spicer and AG Sessions have laid it out for Congress: do exactly what you did on medical cannabis with recreational cannabis, and we can all breathe easier while we figure out the next steps federally on a national policy.

It’s not hard. Simply take the language from last year’s budget amendment and just insert “and recreational” every time it mentions medical cannabis in the U.S. Code. That’s it. It’s not a heavy lift, since Congress was compelled to protect medical cannabis last year.

We can have the conversation about de-scheduling later.

Dan Anglin

Dan Anglin

Dan Anglin is president and CEO of Americanna, an edibles company that was the first gummy products to meet strict Colorado for compliance. He is a Marine Corps veteran and chairman of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.

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