U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Thursday announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time for Texas’ nascent medical cannabis industry. After years of detente during the Obama administration, Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, a Department of Justice directive that federal law enforcement not crack down on marijuana-related activity otherwise protected under state law. In Texas, where advocates have only recently won the right to grow low-THC cannabis for processing into cannibidiol (CBD) oil, Sessions’ gambit could be a big blow against a movement that’s just getting started, if the Lone Star state becomes a target.
“Sessions rescinding the Cole memo really is concerning,” Heather Fazio, the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project says. “The biggest thing is not just the memo in and of itself, but it’s the possibility of a trend of federal interference [in state marijuana policy]. Is this the beginning of a crackdown? That’s the concern that operators and patients have.”
Texas’ Compassionate Care Act, passed in 2015, allows strictly regulated companies to produce CBD oil for the exclusive use of patients with intractable epilepsy. In 2017, the state licensed three companies to begin growing cannabis to be processed into the oil, which contains very low levels of THC, the compound in marijuana that causes users to feel high. The head of one of those companies, Morris Denton, said Thursday that if the DOJ is planning a crackdown, he believes they’ll hit states with more liberal laws with regard to medical or recreational pot first.