Media speculation about the DOJ’s approach to cannabis enforcement under President Donald Trump has degenerated into a cacophony of hypothetical best and worst-case scenarios.
But a sternly-worded letter from a U.S. Attorney to a Native American reservation scheduled to host a cannabis cup — the first declarative official statement on cannabis since Trump’s election — marks the opening salvo of a new war on weed.
Those attending the upcoming High Times Cannabis Cup in Nevada are sure to notice a single detail of singular importance missing from the festivities — actual cannabis.
An exclusive report by the Reno Gazette-Journal revealed a stern letter of warning, sent by U.S. Attorney General Daniel Bogden to the Moapa Paiute Tribe, which is scheduled to host the cup on their tribal reservation just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the letter, Bogden informs the tribe that the DOJ is aware of its intentions to host the event and reminds them that cannabis is still illegal under federal law.
“I am informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event referred to as the 2017 High Times Cannabis Cup because it is under the impression that the so-called ‘Cole Memorandum‘ and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it,” Bogden wrote. “Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department’s position on this issue.”
Tribal Chairman, Darren Daboda, told the Gazette-Journal that the tribe is not attempting to promote illegal activity and that he believes they are within their rights.
“To us, we’re looking at it as utilizing our sovereignty… as long as [marijuana] is not visible, we’re told it will be OK,” Daboda said. “The tribe is promoting it as a vendors’ crafts, food and concert event. We’re not promoting the distributor or selling [marijuana].”
Cannabis-free Cannabis Cup
High Times has responded by sending a message to vendors and attendees telling them not to bring any cannabis to the cup.
“Federal authorities have intervened directly with our host venue, the land of the Moapa Band of Paiutes,” the message said. “Our upcoming Cannabis Cup event in Nevada on March 4-5 can proceed as planned, but vendors, guests, performers and attendees are advised to comply with all local, state, and federal laws regarding the use and distribution of cannabis and cannabis-related products.”
And if anybody was having difficulty remembering the federal stance on cannabis, Bogden’s letter is a stark reminder. In it, he gives a chilling assessment of the “Cole Memo” — the de facto arch-stone of the (relative) cannabis freedom enjoyed during Barack Obama’s second term — dismissing its perceived relevance to federal drug law and going so far as to literally underline marijuana’s contraband status.
“The memoranda are not laws or regulations, and they do not create any rights that may be relied upon by any person. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.“
It remains to be seen if federal law enforcement will be on hand to ensure compliance with cannabis laws, but there will be private security and tribal police providing security for the event. Even if the end result of this letter is an aggressive self-enforcement by event staff, there’s no dismissing the chilling effect this will have on future cannabis events.
And if Bogden’s interpretation represents the view of the DOJ under Trump, it’s fair to assume this is only the beginning of a dark chapter for cannabis freedom.
TELL US, will you be at the cup?