Four governors of states where voters have legalized marijuana for recreational use are asking the Trump administration to leave in place an Obama-era agreement that gave exemptions to the legal pot industry, reports The Hill. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the governors asked the Justice Department to maintain a 2013 agreement, known as the Cole Memo, and guidance issued by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The Cole Memo, named for former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, laid out priorities for federal prosecutors in states where marijuana had been legalized for recreational use. The memo advises prosecutors to avoid strict enforcement of federal prohibitions on marijuana, in deference to state law.
“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.” The letter was signed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I). The FinCEN guidance lays out criteria under which financial institutions can provide services to marijuana-related businesses. Because federal law still considers marijuana a banned substance, many major banks are reluctant or refuse to do business with the marijuana industry. That has led some businesses to operate largely in cash, raising concerns about safety and crime, concerns the FinCEN guidance is meant to alleviate.