On March 19th, the Alaska House of Representatives unanimously voted to ask the federal Department of Justice to stop interfering with the state’s commercial marijuana industry. House Joint Resolution 21, while non-binding, “urges the federal government to respect the authority of the State of Alaska to regulate marijuana use, production and distribution and forbear any federal interference in marijuana policy of states where marijuana has been legalized, in keeping with the federal enforcement priorities enumerated in the United States Department of Justice’s August 29, 2013, memorandum.”
On January 4th Governor Bill Walker tweeted:
We’re continuing to evaluate what the withdrawal of the #ColeMemo means for Alaska. I remain committed to upholding the will of Alaska voters on this issue, and maintaining our State’s right to manage our own affairs. pic.twitter.com/UpHGhqWUG2
— Governor Bill Walker (@AkGovBillWalker) January 4, 2018
The aforementioned memorandum (more commonly known as the Cole Memo) states, “the federal government has traditionally relied on states and local law enforcement agencies to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. For example, the Department of Justice has not historically devoted resources to prosecuting individuals whose conduct is limited to possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property. Instead, the Department has left such lower-level or localized activity to state and local authorities and has stepped in to enforce the CSA only when the use, possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana has threatened to cause [harm at the federal level]. … the Department advised that it likely was not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals, or on their individual caregivers.”
In House Joint Resolution 21, Alaskan legislators also urge the federal government to “reconsider its listing of marijuana as a federal Schedule 1 controlled substance.”
Alaska legalized recreational cannabis use in 2015 and was the third U.S. state to do so. The state has generated over $3 million in tax revenue since sales became legal; the industry in that state is still growing and revenues are likely to increase considerably. Losing that revenue would be a huge blow to the state. HJR 21 is seen as a response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding the Cole Memo in January 2018, implying that the federal government would aggressively enforce federal drug laws in the face of state legalization efforts.