AG pick Merrick Garland: not “a useful use” of DOJ resources to go after state-legal cannabis • A compromise in South Dakota? • & more…

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What did Merrick Garland say about cannabis during his confirmation hearing?

On Monday, Merrick Garland, who was nominated to be Attorney General by President Joe Biden, responded to questions about cannabis during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee

As Cannabis Wire reported last month, little was known until now how Garland would handle cannabis, at the state or federal level. But his response to one question in particular on Monday, posed by Senator Cory Booker, suggests that Garland will take a hands-off approach to state-legal cannabis if confirmed. 

“One thing that was done by the Obama administration was putting forward the Cole Memorandum, as I’m sure you’re aware. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, which gave guidance to the U.S. Attorneys that the federal marijuana prohibition should not be enforced in states that have legalized marijuana in some form,” Booker said. 

Then he asked, “Do you think that the guidance in the Cole Memorandum to de-prioritize marijuana enforcement should be reinstated, that the Justice Department respect states’ decisions on marijuana policy?”

Garland responded, “So, I don’t have every element of the Cole Memorandum in mind, but I do remember it and I have read it. This is a question of prioritization, about resources and prosecutorial discretion. It does not seem to me a useful use of limited resources that we have to be pursuing prosecutions in states that have legalized and that are regulating the use of marijuana, either medically or otherwise. I don’t think that is a useful use. I do think we need to be sure there are no end runs around the state laws that criminal enterprises are doing, so that kind of enforcement should be continued. But I don’t think it’s a good use of our resources where states have already authorized, and it only confuses people, obviously, within the state.”

+ More: An expanded version of the Cole Memo is a common priority among reform advocates, as detailed in this in-depth Cannabis Wire story about the future of cannabis in the new Congress and administration.

South Dakota advocates call for medical cannabis compromise. 

As Cannabis Wire reported earlier this month, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and lawmakers are planning to push back the implementation of a voter-approved medical cannabis measure. This week, advocates have unveiled a proposed compromise, with their own deadlines, to “ensure that regulatory work is completed in a manner that is cost-effective for taxpayers and fair to medical marijuana patients.”

During a press conference on Monday about the compromise, Melissa Mentele of New Approach South Dakota said, “We are making these concessions with a very heavy heart. We know that many medical marijuana patients, advocates and supporters will be disappointed that Measure 26 will not be implemented as written. They are frustrated and angry that their votes are being ignored. We know that some medical marijuana patients will face hardships as a result of the changes proposed by our compromise. We know that the state was capable of implementing Measure 26 on the original timeline in the law. We know that these delays were avoidable, but we believe that this is the right thing to do.”

New York opens applications for cannabinoid hemp licensees. 

In late October, as Cannabis Wire reported, New York’s long-awaited CBD regulations were released. This week, the application process has opened for cannabinoid hemp processor, retailer, and distributor licenses. 

“Opening the application process for businesses looking to be part of the growing hemp industry in New York State is a critical step in the process of expanding our economy and building back better. Licensing gives processors, distributors and retailers the ability to help ensure the hemp industry’s long-term viability,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “This exciting opportunity to be a part of the state’s regulated Cannabinoid Hemp Program is great news for farmers and consumers.”

More AG pick Merrick Garland: not “a useful use” of DOJ resources to go after state-legal cannabis • A compromise in South Dakota? • & more…