The practicalities of running a state-legal business based on a federally-illegal product have became more complicated in some respects but unchanged in others, after U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced changes last week that may enable federal marijuana prosecution in states such as Alaska that have legalized the drug.
“This costs money and time — that’s what this does,” said Leif Able, co-owner of the Kasilof cannabis grower Greatland Ganja, of Sessions’ Jan. 4 changes. “It doesn’t put any business owners in jail. I don’t think it’s going to put an established business out of business, though unfortunately it might stall out one that’s at the wrong stage of formation, and it may cost some jobs.”
Sessions rescinded a 2013 Department of Justice memorandum — known as the Cole memo — that instructed federal prosecutors to focus marijuana enforcement on violent crime, gang activity, and distribution to children.
The change could allow U.S Attorneys such as Alaska’s Bryan Schroder to more broadly enforce federal marijuana prohibitions.
“We’ve always been at a heightened possibility of having federal intervention, but they had the guidelines for us to have confidence in,” said Patricia Patterson, owner of the Highbush Buds cannabis store outside Soldotna. “Now the guidelines are gone, but they were just guidelines.”
The change prompted Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik’s resignation as chair of Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board, the five-seat governor-appointed group that issues marijuana licenses in Alaska.