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Oregon Governor, State Police Chief Stand Up For Recreational Marijuana


Oregon still struggles with regulating medical marijuana, almost 20 years after it was legalized.

Oregon still struggles with regulating medical marijuana, almost 20 years after it was legalized.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

Oregon’s governor and the head of the state police defended the state’s legal marijuana industry in letters to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been hinting at a crackdown on states such as Oregon that have legalized cannabis in defiance of federal law.

Gov. Kate Brown noted Tuesday in her letter that Sessions’ earlier letter to her referenced a draft report from the Oregon State Police that concluded a lot of Oregon’s marijuana was being diverted to other states.

Brown and Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton said that draft report was invalid and had incorrect data and conclusions.

Brown said new laws in Oregon, including tracking all marijuana grown for legal sale from seed to store, will help cut down on diversion into the black market. Brown noted that she also recently signed into law legislation that makes it easier to prosecute the unlawful import and export of marijuana products.

Governors of Alaska and Washington state also recently pushed back against the Trump administration and defended their efforts to regulate the marijuana industry. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker wrote to Sessions earlier this month asking the Department of Justice to maintain the Obama administration’s more hands-off enforcement approach to states that have legalized marijuana.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the attorney general made claims about the situation in his state that are “outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information.”

The governors of Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska wrote to Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in April, warning that altering the Cole memorandum, which restricts federal marijuana law enforcement in states where cannabis is legal, “would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

Sessions, however, then wrote to congressional leaders, opposing an amendment that prevents the Justice Department from using appropriated funds to interfere with states’ medical marijuana.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who co-wrote the amendment with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, told The Associated Press recently that Congress is becoming more pro-marijuana, and that more legalization will tamp down the black market.

“The more that we go down the path of legalization, regulation and taxation, diversion becomes less and less of a problem,” Blumenauer said.

Brown told Sessions in her letter that Oregon’s medical and recreational marijuana industry has raised over $60.2 million in revenue and created over 16,000 jobs.

She said her staff looks forward to continuing its work with Session’s office and his representative in Oregon “to end black market marijuana operations, and to provide mutual education and support of our legal and regulated marketplace.”

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