Beth Wittke, a registered cannabis farmer in Calaveras County who said she is doing her best to follow state law and local regulations, has her work cut out for her.
As her county looks at banning or restricting cannabis cultivation, the Trump Administration on Thursday acted to reverse Obama-era policies dictating a hands-off approach states with cannabis programs.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has given federal prosecutors free reign to enforce cannabis laws while asking Senate leaders to reverse rules blocking the Justice Department from doing so in states that allow it. However, the Justice Department wouldn't say whether an aggressive federal crackdown on cannabis is pending.
Wittke said that while the issue is certainly on her radar screen, she is not unduly alarmed.
“I'm doing all I can to follow state law and local regulations, so I'm not sure what else I could do,” she said in a telephone interview.
The Rohrbacher-Farr budget amendment protects those who participate in states' medical cannabis programs by defunding the Justice Department's prosecution of those defendants. The Cole memo, while not legally binding, suggested that states with recreational cannabis laws on the books should also be off limits to federal prosecutors.
Without funding to pursue enforcement, Sessions' mandates lack teeth, Wittke said.
“At this point, even the most conservative of the Republicans don't agree with him,” she said. “It's like he's an army of one. At this point you have to kind of shrug your shoulders.”
Sessions would need the backing of Congress to pursue aggressive enforcement of federal cannabis laws.
Wittke said she thinks people are increasingly beginning to recognize the harm that comes from cannabis prohibition, which she called 'the least harmful of all available substances.'
“If 64 percent of the country wants us to stop fighting this part of the drug war, we ought to stop fighting it,” Wittke said.