A Top Cannabis Lawyer Deciphers the Future of Legal Weed in Trump's America
Colorado attorney Christian Sederberg clears up the morass of pot laws.
The future of legal cannabis is as uncertain as it's ever been. Normalization advocates are anxious about what changes cannabis policy will see under a Trump presidency—but even under Obama, individuals in states where pot is legal risk losing employment rights, and medical marijuana card-holders are banned from owning firearms. Legal weed businesses can’t access traditional financial services, and owning or renting retail, grow, and office space is more difficult, and oftentimes more costly, for pot brands.
Incoming President Trump has professed support for states rights to govern their respective legal-marijuana programs, but his Justice Department, Health and Human Resources, and Homeland Security appointees aren't the most 420-friendly bunch.
With the incoming administration, it's a little tricky to justify optimism that significant strides will be taken for legal cannabis over the next few years. To gain a deeper understanding of where legal weed might head next, and to separate emotion from facts, KINDLAND phoned attorney Christian Sederberg, a partner and founding member of marijuana-focused law firm, Vicente Sederberg.
KINDLAND: Can Trump take back the current federal protections of state-regulated legal marijuana, such as the Cole Memo and the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment?
Christian Sederberg: One possibility is that President Trump could take back those memos, or say they’ve been rescinded. At least until there is more clarity, or legislative action, this is something we’re very worried about. There are now marijuana businesses in Colorado that are working transparently with banks. From a public safety perspective, and allowing states to experiment with marijuana policy––regardless of how you feel about marijuana––this is the correct policy. More cash on the streets, and more cash on-hand, and a lack of access to banking actually empowers criminals to involve themselves in these markets. When it comes to policy, what federal vs. state policies would look like is very important to look at. But when it comes to banking, this is a public safety issue, and should not be political.
If you’re a person who uses marijuana––regardless of whether or not your state allows that for medical purposes, or for adults 21 and over––you are not entitled to purchase or possess guns.
KINDLAND: What's the rundown on Trump's incoming Cabinet members?
Christian Sederberg: The big [selection] we’re all talking about is Jeff Sessions, for Attorney General. Sessions has said some negative things about marijuana that have been highly publicized. How the policies have not been good. That being said, that was in Sessions’s role as a legislator; his impact as the Attorney General will be much greater. His expressed views on states rights aren’t exactly what people would like to hear from the potential Attorney General. Those are things to consider when trying to predict what may or may not happen when [Sessions] actually becomes Attorney General.
Amber Senter (L), Nina Parks, and Sunshine Lencho (R) co-founders of Supernova Women. (via)
KINDLAND: Will the Trump Administration have any impact on efforts to make the cannabis industry more inclusive?
Christian Sederberg: The inclusiveness and diversity of the [cannabis] landscape is going to be driven by the eight of nine states that passed laws in this past election. Arizona is the exception, but we have new medical laws in Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, and four additional states moving to an adult-use regulated system––that’s California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine. The driver of diversity is going to be the policies that those states take, in terms of what their programs look like. The way the Trump Administration could back that, is how it approaches the industry from a federal perspective. Will they allow the state-regulated experiments in marijuana to continue? I’d like to think that down the road, inclusiveness would be a [federal] priority, but right now, the issue that is right in front of us, is whether or not we get to continue under a similar regime that Obama had previously set up, with these states’ policies changing the status quo. Or do we go backward on some of these things?
KINDLAND: What strategies can marijuana users implement to retain 2nd Amendment rights?
Christian Sederberg: If you’re a person who uses marijuana––regardless of whether or not your state allows that for medical purposes, or for adults 21 and over––you are not entitled to purchase or possess guns. This isn’t a state-by-state thing: This is a real issue that brings up a number of very interesting questions. Because using marijuana is federally illegal, and that is an automatic disqualification for exercising your 2nd Amendment rights. That is a major issue for many people.
Cannabis workplace drug-testing (via)
KINDLAND: What strategies can marijuana patients use to deal with workplace drug-testing?
Christian Sederberg: Every state is different, and this depends even on medical use and adult-use. In Colorado, when we were drafting Amendment 64, we specifically said that employers could keep their current policies in place with regard to marijuana. We did that because there is already a law on the books that says you can’t be fired for doing something illegal when you’re off the job. That is something specific to Colorado. Other states have those laws, and some don’t. There are employers that follow federal regulations, such as mining or oil and gas, where there are safety measures put in place that could be very problematic. In many ways, it’s a hearts and minds issue, and a practical issue for employers.
KINDLAND: What is the intention of seed-to-sale regulations? Is the technology effective?
Christian Sederberg: Seed-to-sale doesn’t always mean seed-to-sale. Oftentimes it means clone-to-sale, or refers to other [cultivation] techniques that people use. But as a general term for tracking technology that makes sure that cannabis is not diverted into, or out, of the regulated system––if you look at just how agricultural businesses are run, many of these types of systems exist.