U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) said it’s “unacceptable” that the future state of Colorado’s economy lies in the hands of one person.
DeGette, who made the comments while meeting Tuesday with a group of local marijuana and marijuana-related businessowners, decried the current state of affairs that she says has given the U.S. attorney general the power to unilaterally decide whether Colorado’s budding marijuana industry is allowed to continue to grow, or is suddenly shutdown – stripping the state of one of its key economic drivers.
“Until Congress acts, the economic well-being of our state lies in the hands of one person: the Attorney General,” DeGette said. “That’s unacceptable. That should never be the case.”
The businessowners DeGette met with Tuesday told her that despite following Colorado’s laws to a T, they live in constant fear that the federal government will suddenly take everything away from them.
“Working in Colorado’s marijuana business industry is like death from a thousand cuts,” said Eduardo Provencio, of Mary’s Medicinals. “We pay higher fees, higher insurance rates and we’re constantly turned away by other businesses who refuse to work with us.”
“The federal government is having their cake and eating it too,” Garrett Graff, a local attorney who represents several local marijuana businesses, told DeGette. “They tell us ‘go ahead, we won’t prosecute’ then they turnaround and use their asset forfeiture laws to take away everything people have built.”
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, Colorado’s marijuana businesses reported nearly $1.55 billion in sales last year alone. Those businesses, the agency said, were responsible for more than $266 million in fees and taxes that were paid into state coffers last year.
Yet, despite the industry’s growing success in the state, many of the businessowners DeGette met with on April 16, expressed a real fear of federal intervention – one that suddenly became a little more real when, just hours before the meeting began, Colorado Attorney General Jason Dunn told the Colorado Sun he agreed with the steps taken by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to formally rescind an Obama-era directive, known as the Cole Memo, which had told federal prosecutors not to interfere with state marijuana laws.
“We as law enforcement should never be saying ‘we won’t enforce the law,’” Dunn said in an interview published online Tuesday. “Marijuana is illegal under federal law. Period.”
According to the report, Dunn said his office is already “putting significant resources” into cracking down on potentially hundreds of in-state grow operations and predicted that Coloradans would “see — without saying too much — some significant activity on that in the next couple of months.”
The comments made by the state’s newly-appointed federal prosecutor provided businessowners a renewed basis for the fear that many of them said they have been forced to live with on a daily basis, and come as many of them prepare for one of their busiest and most profitable days of the year.
DeGette said the ultimate solution lies with Congress, and she told the businessowners that she will continue to work with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get a legislative solution passed as soon as possible. She also told them that she planned to present the comments made by Colorado’s attorney general as yet another reason why time is of the essence.
“The stakes are too high for Congress not to act,” she said. “We need to give these businessowners the peace-of-mind they need to continue investing in this rapidly growing industry, and we need to protect our state’s economy from the constant – and now growing – threat of federal intervention.”
DeGette reintroduced legislation earlier this month that would prevent the federal government from enforcing its anti-marijuana laws in states where it is legal. She also sponsored legislation, known as the STATES Act, which takes a slightly different approach to accomplish the same goal.
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