Regulators and operators in Ohio’s nascent medical marijuana industry are keeping a watchful eye on news that the U.S. Department of Justice will end an Obama-era policy that paved the way for marijuana legalization in states.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to rescind the policy and leave it up to assistant United States attorneys general to determine how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana laws. The U.S. attorney’s office in the southern district of Ohio declined comment.
“It is definitely disappointing news. It is definitely going to impact investments. It’ll be harder to raise money for future groups,” said Thomas Rosenberger, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio. “I don’t think it’ll stop the program (in Ohio.)”
He added: “This has been a risk in the industry since its inception…It’s possible they’ll do nothing. It’s possible they’ll do some raids as they’ve done in the past and take away the plants and arrest people.”
Rosenberger predicted the change in policy will be more problematic for states with full legalization, such as Colorado and California, where marijuana can be used by all adults, not just patients.
Opponents of marijuana applauded the decision.
“There is no more safe haven with regard to the federal government and marijuana, but it’s also the beginning of the story and not the end,” said Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was among several anti-marijuana advocates who met with Sessions last month. “This is a victory. It’s going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.”
Ohio moving ahead