White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s recent commentary suggesting the federal government could crack down on states permitting recreational use of marijuana exacerbated what tends to be mixed messaging on the treatment of an industry whose mere existence defies federal laws.
That sent chills down the spines of businesspeople across the country working in the myriad industries legalized marijuana touches, from cultivators, processors and dispensaries to their bevy of supporting operations. And that included investors and entrepreneurs in Ohio, where a medical marijuana program now six months in development is to be up and running by September 2018.
The initial reaction from most stakeholders and aspiring cannabis businesspeople was one of concern, said Kevin Murphy, a Cleveland-based lawyer at Walter | Haverfield LLP who works with marijuana business owners and investors across the country.
Attorneys like Murphy spent a few days after Spicer’s Feb. 23 press conference calming fretful clients. Can, or will, the government really go after recreational marijuana? Could an administration’s anti-marijuana platform bleed impact medical programs?
How could all this affect an industry supported by medical marijuana programs in 21 states and recreational use in another eight?
Spicer’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question about recreational marijuana use.
“I think that is a question for the Department of Justice,” he said. “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it. Because again there is a big difference between the medical use … that’s very different from the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”
That statement briefly shook the marijuana industry and spooked investors — particularly in Ohio, where money is quietly building up to support growers, cultivators and processors the instant each can apply for licenses.
“I think if you ask if people are worried, yes. But