It's not much, but US Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams' first public statement after the Trump administration signaled a crackdown on legal cannabis programs suggests Oregon will stay the course.
In a brief statement this afternoon, Williams said his office will "will continue working with our federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners to pursue shared public safety objectives, with an emphasis on stemming the overproduction of marijuana and the diversion of marijuana out of state, dismantling criminal organizations and thwarting violent crime in our communities.”
Not super enlightening, but US Attorney Billy Williams suggest he'll largely stay the course in his first statement after the Sessions decision. None of the prerogatives he lists are contrary to the Cole Memo. pic.twitter.com/jmCA9zbSek
— Dirk VanderHart (@dirquez) January 4, 2018
If that's the extent of what Williams intends to do in this quick-shifting environment, Oregon shouldn't expect much to change. Under the Cole Memorandum—the 2013 document that laid out how states can enact legal pot without incurring the wrath of the feds—overproduction of pot (such that it reached the black market undetected), movement of pot over state lines, and violent crime were all listed as reasons why the federal government might intervene in a cannabis program. So even though US Attorney General Jeff Sessions killed the Cole Memo earlier today, Williams is suggesting his concerns haven't broadened.
"It’s kind of a careful statement, but I think it is a stay-the-course type of statement," says Vince Sliwoski, a Portland cannabis industry attorney (and one of the contributors to the Merc's "Ask a Pot Lawyer" column).
If that's in fact what Williams intended to communicate, he'd be making a similar call to the US Attorney in Colorado, who has said there will be no immediate changes to federal enforcement on pot in that state.
The statement is also probably good news for Oregon local officials from the local level all the way up to Congress. They've issued a fusillade of blistering press releases all day, tearing into Sessions' decision. Gov. Kate Brown even held a press conference this afternoon outside of the federal courthouse in downtown Portland.
Backed by Sheriff Mike Reese, Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, and Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton, Brown accused Sessions of "literally ripping the rug out from underneath the marijuana industry."
"In Oregon, we’re going to choose to move forward," Brown said.
The governor said she spoke with Williams this morning, prior to Sessions formally rescinding the Cole Memo, and hadn't got much inkling as to how he'd proceed. She also defended the state's efforts to curb illegal activity under its recreational and medical cannabis programs, and touted 19,000 jobs and $100 million in revenue she says the state has benefitted from. Should the program be threatened, Brown said she and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum are prepared to pursue "all legal options available to us."
"We are implementing the will of the voters here in a way that’s successful for the economy," Brown said, referring to Measure 91, the 2014 ballot measure that enshrined legal recreational pot in the state.
Should Williams change his mind on enforcement, don't expect city and state cops to start cracking down. As Hampton made clear this afternoon: "We enforce state statute in Oregon. We will not be targeting people who are operating lawfully under state statute."