State legal cannabis businesses are used to the specter of the federal government in the rear view mirrors of their lives and businesses. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that cannabis remains federally illegal. And it’s not so much the case anymore that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or Department of Justice (DOJ) are coming to knock down your door and arrest and prosecute you as a cannabis business owner for open violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). These days, life can be fairly miserable as a cannabis business owner due to the legal conflict between the states and the feds, resulting in a lack of access to financial institutions, onerous federal income tax obligations, no federal trademark protection, asset forfeiture, etc.
Rarely, though, do we get to see a state agency and the feds openly fight over these commercial cannabis democratic experiments (which is mainly due to the acting Attorney General’s “hands-off” approach to state legal cannabis, “Second Requests” scandal notwithstanding). When these confrontations happen, it’s fascinating to see how the respective governments behave and is always educational regarding evolving federal enforcement priorities.
And that is what made last week’s new so interesting.