As was recently reported, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Cole Memo and related guidelines that had declared a federal policy of non-enforcement against marijuana activities to the extent that they were legal under state law. What does this shift in federal policy mean for Oregon’s marijuana industry?
On one level, it may not mean much. Marijuana cultivation and sale were already in a legal twilight zone, remaining criminal under the Controlled Substances Act even if it was not a priority for federal law enforcement. And even the recent change in federal enforcement guidelines may have little effect in Oregon. The United States Attorney for Oregon has released a statement, followed by an op-ed, that suggesting that enforcement priorities will continue to focus on “underground” growers. So it is unlikely that we will see extensive federal prosecution of activities that are legal as a matter of Oregon law.
U.S. Attorney Statement on Marijuana Enforcement in the District of Oregon
U.S. Attorney: A call for transparency and action on marijuana (Guest opinion)
Greater significance may rest with the reaction of the commercial partners of the industry – lenders, insurers, commercial landlords, etc. There are already reports that some credit unions are no longer taking on marijuana businesses as new customers, at least temporarily. It would be a significant setback for the legal marijuana industry if credit, insurance, and commercial space are restricted due to the declared change in enforcement priorities.
Finally, and regardless of law enforcement priorities, employers and landlords are still not required to tolerate marijuana use by their employees and tenants. It was already a matter of Oregon law that employers were not required to give reasonable accommodation to employees with a medical marijuana prescription. Likewise, landlords can refuse to allow marijuana use on their premises, and residential lease language banning “criminal activities” or “illegal drug use” would typically apply to marijuana possession.