This morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, which outlined eight regulatory priorities states with legal marijuana must follow to avoid federal interference. Why did he do it? All we can do is speculate, and as usual, I am speculating that this is all about the money in President Donald J. Trump’s pocket. Today’s move wasn’t fake news people, it’s the real deal: Trump does not care about your human rights or your businesses, just his. Let me break down my theory:
Schedule II is Coming
GW Pharmaceuticals, a British bio-pharmaceutical firm, is in the process of getting the first whole-plant cannabis medicine through FDA approval. The upcoming approval of this high-CBD cannabis tincture is likely what has spurred a national crackdown on “legal CBD”. (Side note: CBD is just as illegal as the rest of the cannabis plant, everywhere, no matter what hemp CBD companies say as they collect your money).
When Epidiolex is approved, it will signal a new era in legal cannabinoid medicine.
Current cannabinoid medicines approved for pharmaceutical use, like the Schedule III drug Marinol, are isolated cannabinoids. Each compound in a drug considered to be “medicine” must undergo clinical trials to prove safety and efficacy. Plants and herbs like cannabis don’t fit so well into legal definitions of “medicine” because they contain hundreds to thousands of variable compounds that must be standardized to even be considered. Despite this, these herbs and plants tend to be more effective when taken in as close to their botanical form as possible (see “entourage effect”).
Ironically, Marinol is basically pure-isolated THC, the compound that drives the plant’s bad reputation in the first place. Hypocrisy aside (cause it sure isn’t news in drug war America) the approval of Epidiolex will bring a flood of money into the newly defined “medical cannabis industry.” GW has created two products that utilize the entourage effect but can still be standardized; Sativex, a 1:1 THC/CBD tincture and Epidiolex, a high-CBD tincture. Both are created from cloned plants and are currently undergoing FDA approved clinical trials, Epidiolex is up for approval in the treatment of epilepsy first.
Epidiolex could become a Schedule II drug any day now and will represent the only truly legal high-CBD products available nationwide. The approval will open the door for domestic medical cannabis companies already working on similar products in restrictive states to start pushing their drugs through the FDA approval process as well.
State Medical Oligopolies Have Allowed Wealthy Investors to Occupy Market Share Before a Shift in Federal Policy
The states most likely to be affected by the absence of the Cole Memo are West Coast states like California, Oregon and Washington, which all have ingrained botanical cannabis industries driving tax revenues these states are likely to protect. Rescinding the Cole Memo does not mean the federal government will be closing down local pot shops. At this point, to do that they would have to send the U.S. Army to invade the entire West Coast (as well as Nevada and Colorado) and that is VERY unlikely to happen.
What this move does do is scare the right people; potential new business owners and investors may not join the industry because of the added fear and risk, and banks that were taking legal money on the sly may stop entirely. The Cole Memo, however, has no bearing on medical marijuana states, which means medical business owners have less to fear and more to gain, especially if they are lucky license holders in an oligopoly market.
In Midwest and on East Coast states, like Florida, Ohio, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania; high-cost licensing and backroom deals have generated medical laws that carve out the market to just a handful of already-wealthy investors. These oligopoly markets are purely a cash grab and they aren’t what is best for patients in any way.
These state’s medical systems are characterized by restrictive patient qualifications, state-mandated extraction of all products (no buds) and very high barriers to entry for businesses. In essence, many of these elite medical companies have already been preparing the anecdotal research they need to lead to clinical trials of their very own Schedule II Epidiolex-like drugs, once that option is available to them. State-licensed medical businesses will be the only ones left with any sort of federal protection.
So here we go; “recreational” marijuana is losing its federal protections. Despite the change, businesses in legal states are likely to still operate unencumbered, as their state attorneys general are unlikely to mobilize state resources to enforce federal law and cut off the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars of revenue flowing into their state’s coffers. Rest assured, most legal operations aren’t going down without a big fight.
However, unlike legal pharmaceutical companies, you can’t take a company dealing in illegal drugs public. (Well, in theory no, but that didn’t stop Terra Tech, which has a handful of connections to Trump himself).
Legal pharmaceutical companies can be publicly owned and traded and are among the most profitable businesses in the world. With a perceived crackdown on “recreational marijuana” the “legitimate” medical businesses in oligopoly markets can take their companies public (or sell out to larger publicly-traded pharmaceutical companies) once they can produce legal (Schedule II) drugs like GW Pharmaceuticals.
For these companies, losing $10 to $20 million or more in a tightly-run medical oligopoly market in high-population states like Florida and New York over about five years is a small investment towards taking the company public and making it worth a billion dollars overnight when Schedule II possibilities arrive.
Patients in states with “recreational” marijuana are finding that they are losing affordable access to quality medicine as more “recreational” users enter the market. Raw genetically variable buds will NEVER be defined as “medicine” by the federal government under current guidelines, so as the FDA approves Epidiolex and Sativex, expect to see more old-school botanical medical cannabis programs fall by the wayside. Patients will have access to government-approved cannabis medicines when the time is right.
Trump is Likely to Profit
I see too many Trump supporters still grasping at straws to believe this was a rogue move on the part of Jeff Sessions. Let’s not forget he was deliberately chosen for the position despite joking on the record that he thought the Ku Klux Klan were “good people” until he learned they smoked marijuana. Trump and his team were most certainly aware of Sessions’s views on cannabis and clearly it wasn’t a problem.
The position of attorney general is penultimate for cannabis; Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder oversaw the release of both the Ogden and Cole Memos, paving the way for the modern industry. But on that same note, had Holder and the Obama Administration taken the bold move of following facts and science, they would have pushed Congress to decriminalize and deschedule the cannabis plant entirely and we wouldn’t be in this mess today. They didn’t, they left the industry vulnerable to the whims of the next administration.
So why would Trump set this in motion? It hardly seems like something he would prioritize, considering the few statements he has made on the topic have generally been supportive and he has bigger things to worry about, like the Russia Investigation, nuclear war with North Korea and generally “making America great again” by Tweeting at the crack of dawn every morning before watching eight hours of Fox News. It’s unlikely he actually cares about marijuana so much as it affects his own bank account, so keep in mind he, his campaign and affiliates have multiple ties to Florida’s corrupt oligopoly market. Those dominating these oligopoly markets now have the most protected businesses in the marketplace.
Considering he is the first president in modern memory not to divest himself from his businesses before taking office, probably safer to assume this conspiracy isn’t just my theory.
TELL US, what do you think the motivations were behind rescinding the Cole Memo?