Gov. Walker warns Trump administration of 'harmful consequences' of pot crack down

Published: Apr. 3, 2017 at 9:31 PM AKDT
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Alaska’s governor is among four state leaders warning the Trump administration against cracking down on recreational marijuana markets.

In a letter dated April 3, Governor Bill Walker along with the governors from Colorado, Oregon and Washington wrote, “We ask the Trump Administration to engage with us before embarking on any changes to regulatory and enforcement systems.”

The letter praises two Obama-era regulatory systems as being “indispensable” to allowing state retail marijuana industries to thrive, saying overhauling regulations like 2013 Department of Justice Cole Memorandum (Cole Memo) and the guidance from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network “is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences.”

Gov. Walker’s office said, he agreed to sign the letter when representatives from the other three states approached his staff.

“Governor Walker signed the letter because Alaska voters passed the initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana. He is upholding the will of the people,” Walker’s Press Secretary Katie Marquette wrote in an email.

Ambiguous rhetoric from Trump administration officials have prompted some to wonder if there will be stronger enforcement on federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

In February, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters, “There’s a big difference between the medical use which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what their intent was in terms of how the Department of Justice would handle that issue. That’s very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice I think will be further looking into.”

“Initially it was just a knee jerk reaction of, ‘Oh no, here we go again,’” said Executive Director for the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association Cary Carrigan.

Carrigan said, some possible marijuana entrepreneurs decided to withhold submitting their applications to start a new business after hearing Spicer's press conference.

“We're really fortunate in Alaska to have a lot of legislators, the governor, a lot of representatives and senators who are very supportive of the marijuana industry,” said Carrigan.

Since President Trump's inauguration day, Alaska lawmakers have been vocal in their position, advocating for state’s rights.

In February, Congressman Don Young became a founding member of the Cannabis Caucus, a group of representatives fighting for the interests of states that have legalized marijuana.

“Alaska voted to legalize it by pretty large margin, and I believe state's rights, and federal government should stay out of it period,” Young said in a press conference announcing the new caucus.

On Mar. 2, Sen. Lisa Murkowski signed a letter with 11 of her colleagues, reminding the new administration, “On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump stated that despite his personal views regarding marijuana use, legalization should be left to the states.”

The support from the high-ranking Alaska leaders comes as some relief to many in the state's young marijuana industry as it prepares for its first tourist season in business.

“The fact that our congressional delegation is really not pushing any agenda that would roll us back is really comforting,” said Carrigan.

“We'll support them if they support us.”