March 3, 2017
Las Vegas, NV — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long opposed cannabis legalization, claiming “Good people don’t use marijuana,” and this week alleged violence increases when it’s legal (yet another alternative fact perpetuated by the Trump administration).
On Tuesday, Sessions also claimed:
“States, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”
Indeed, voters in Nevada voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the 2016 election. Question 2 passed with 54% of the vote, making possession of up to one ounce of cannabis legal at the beginning of 2017. It will take until 2018 until it is legally available for sale.
Now, it appears the Department of Justice has fired the first shot in the attorney general’s war on weed. High Times magazine is slated to hold a “Cannabis Cup Las Vegas” event on the Moapa Paiute tribe’s land this weekend. The magazine has held these events in cities throughout the world and bills them as “celebrating the world of ganja through competitions, instructional seminars, expositions, celebrity appearances, concerts and product showcases.”
The Las Vegas event would have previously been allowed under the Department of Justice’s Cole Memorandum, a policy implemented during the second half of the Obama administration that directs the DOJ to respect state laws on marijuana.
But according to a letter sent from U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden to the tribe’s chairman, Darren Daboda, the Department of Justice will no longer respect that memorandum. According to Bogden’s letter, obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal:
“I am informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event referred to as the 2017 High Times Cannabis Cup because it is under the impression that the so-called ‘Cole Memorandum’ and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it. Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department’s position on this issue.”
Bogden also cites the Guidance Memorandum, which “indicates that tribal governments and U.S. attorneys should consult government-to-government as issues arise” and implied leniency for tribal governments regarding cannabis.
Though he asserts his office is “happy to engage” with tribal governments, Bogden insists “Nothing in the Guidance Memorandum or the Cole Memorandum alters the authority or jurisdiction of the United States to enforce federal law in Indian Country or elsewhere.”
In other words, the federal government does not intend to respect states’ rights when it comes to cannabis. The Las Vegas Sun reported that former Moapa Chairman William Anderson, “who is still involved with the tribe’s day-to-day decision-making,” said “Bogden showed up at the festival site with representatives of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and FBI the same day the letter was dated and delivered. They met with the tribal council and reiterated the points made in the letter.”
According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, High Times removed “its promotion of the herbal spas, cooking contests and samplings that would have involved Cannabis products” from its web page promoting the event. They also sent out a notice to attendees warning them not to bring cannabis to the cannabis event.
“Vendors, guests, performers and attendees are advised to comply with all local, state, and federal laws regarding the use and distribution of cannabis and cannabis related products. In order for the cannabis industry to continue to earn legitimacy and social acceptance, we understand that rules and laws need to be abided,” the letter stated. “High Times will continue to stand up for our civil liberties and advocate for our inalienable rights to cultivate and consume cannabis. We urge you to join us.”
The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that “The tribe has since been working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada to resolve the conflict, according to tribal chairman Darren Daboda. The U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed the letter, but declined comment.”