There aren’t many U.S. Department of Justice officials who would be “rock stars” period, let alone at a San Jose legal cannabis industry expo.
But I’m here to tell you: There was such a star in our midst at this conference…
I’m talking about former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole.
Back in 2013, he was the No. 2 official at the Justice Department who authored the now-famous “Cole Memo.”
That memorandum ordered federal agents to leave states with legalized marijuana well enough alone – as long as they had adopted a clear regulatory framework for doing so. The landmark memo gave the states and federal law enforcement a kind of legal modus vivendi for regulated cannabis, allowing each party to “look the other way.”
The memo was instrumental in helping a multibillion-dollar legal weed sector take root and thrive.
So it’s no surprise that, as a keynote speaker at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo in San Jose July 25-27, Cole was treated like a conquering hero.
I had the chance to catch up with him privately beforehand to hear what he had to say…
The Former Lawman Was the “Man of the Hour”
Many attending the summit were able to enter the cannabis industry in the last few years – and prosper, too, by the stories I heard – thanks to Cole’s groundbreaking work and that memo. So they wanted to thank him.
Renegade Investment Expert: “It’s time to double down – or even triple down – on your cannabis investments!” Read more…
Yes, earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo. You’ll recall that sent weed stocks tumbling briefly, but just like I said at the time, it proved to be the perfect buying opportunity.
Besides, Sessions’ ever more–retrograde views don’t really concern those here in San Jose.
That’s because a workaround is in progress: a permanent, federal-level solution to the problem of state sovereignty vs. federal drug laws.
In fact, Sessions’ boss, U.S. President Donald Trump, recently said he supports a bipartisan bill known as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would allow each state to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.
Because it’s based on states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the bill has remarkably broad support from conservatives. According to my sources, it enjoys wide support in both the House of Representatives and Senate.
Several days before the summit here, I was lucky to have the opportunity to speak privately with Cole – lucky, especially because he didn’t have the opportunity to talk one on one with anyone at the summit. He was pretty much rushed in and out of the place.
During that conversation, Cole told me he is a big supporter of the STATES Act.
“On the federal level, it would in effect legalize marijuana industry activity as long as it’s in compliance with state laws,” Cole told me. “If it passes, it could be a pretty major step toward certainty in the country.”
That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.
STATES Would Give a Solid Floor to the Legal Cannabis Sector
As you might imagine, the STATES Act was wildly popular with those attending the summit. And I’m willing to bet those of you reading this who might have investments in weed are pretty excited, too.
While at the summit, Ben Bradley, a strategic consultant and former executive with the California Cannabis Industry Association, told me that industry members were already feeling optimistic. That’s because a legislative compromise to the standoff between state and federal government will only help boost that sentiment and, not much further down the line, boost profitability.
“Empowering states to develop their own regulatory frameworks is definitely a good thing,” Bradley said. “It’s similar to when Prohibition ended [in 1933], allowing states to enact their own systems. And it goes along with the fundamentals, the fibers of our democracy, if you will.”
Larry Schwartz is president of Cannabiz Media, a firm that supplies customer relationship–management software to the marijuana industry. He told me that the STATES Act fits the nation’s more permissive mood on weed.
This November, as many as 12 states will have legalization on their ballots. (You can click right here for a chance to get my research on legal cannabis’ outlook come election season. I’m really excited for November.)
“Anything that makes the industry more legit is a big help,” Schwartz said. “When we started doing this four years ago, there were only a handful of states where marijuana was legal. Now we are up to 30 or so – and more coming in the fall.”
Meanwhile, demographics are helping lead the charge toward legalization, added Jesse Parenti, a partner in risk-management firm Nine Point Strategies.
“You have more than 70 billion Baby Boomers out there who are starting to change [drug] policies,” Parenti said. “The feds are really not coming in here to crack down on the legal use of marijuana.”
Election Year Shocker: 2018 Election Results Foretold
Who’ll win? Nobody knows. In fact, only one thing is clear about the upcoming elections:
American voters could make a small group of investors very, very wealthy. They’ll do it by creating 61.4 million new customers for the cannabis industry.
Last election year, similar companies posted rare profits of 12,400% and more – enough to turn every $10,000 invested into more than $1.24 million.
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