What’s the feds’ cannabis enforcement policy? ‘Confusing’

Cannabis Plant. (Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Cannabis plant (Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Whether the Trump administration will enforce the federal ban on marijuana in Alaska remains ambiguous.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about cannabis policy at a hearing Tuesday. Rosenstein at times took a hard line.

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“We follow the law and the science. And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an illegal drug,” he said “It’s properly scheduled under schedule 1.”

Murkowski asked about the Cole Memo — a 2013 document that says the feds will not take enforcement action in states, like Alaska, that have opted to legalize and regulate cannabis. Rosenstein says he intends to discuss it with the new U.S. attorneys, once they take office.

“At the moment, that memorandum is still in effect,” he said. “Maybe there will be changes to it in the future. But we’re still operating under that policy.”

Rosenstein finished Murkowski’s question back on the hard line:

“We’re responsible for enforcing the law. It’s illegal and that is the federal policy with regard to marijuana,” he said.

Murkowski gave him a one-word response: “Confusing.”

The federal ban has Alaska’s licensed marijuana businesses in several binds. Banks reject their cash receipts as drug money. Murkowski said she’s heard postal inspectors believe they can seize packages of cash when cannabis entrepreneurs mail payments to the state tax office.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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