Last night I attended a panel event hosted by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) entitled, "Amendment 64: What's Next for the Feds?" in Denver, Colorado. According to their website, NCIA is, "the only trade association in the U.S. that works to advance the interests of cannabis-related businesses on the national level." The panelists (pictured above, from left to right) included:
- Steve Fox, director of public affairs for NCIA and co-founder of SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation);
- Troy Eid, former U.S. Attorney appointed by President George W. Bush; and
- Christian Sederberg, founding member of Vicente Sederberg, LLC and member of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's Amendment 64 Task Force.
The panel was moderated by NCIA deputy director Betty Aldworth (pictured above, standing on the far right) who was also the spokesperson and advocacy director for the Yes on 64 campaign.
So far, the federal government has not given a clear indication of what actions to expect, and this event reinforced that uncertainty.
Steve Fox's comments were optimistic, citing support from members of both the House and the Senate at the federal level. He also emphasized that federal guidance would help both Colorado and Washington move forward. Fox notably warned that while rescheduling of marijuana is worthwhile, in his opinion, it is also "not a panacea" to issues facing the cannabis industry.
Troy Eid's comments were staid, emphasizing that the federal government's enforcement of marijuana prohibition is unlikely to change because only two states are in conflict with federal law. He warned of "under the radar" strategies that fall short of litigation, but would be disruptive for producers, retailers and consumers. He suggested the federal government would not communicate its approach clearly or ahead of time, instead likely opting for opaque pronouncements and continued action. Eid did note that, politically, "there's a world of difference," after Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 passed in Colorado and Washington respectively, which he expects will have an impact.
Christian Sederberg's comments were pragmatic, both recognizing the risk that federal intervention poses and underscoring the need to keep that risk in context. Sederberg reiterated several points he raised in Governor Hickenlooper's first Amendment 64 Task Force meeting (which I wrote about here). Most notably, he explained that the debate over federal preemption of state laws should focus on, "(the) legitimate concerns of the federal government," e.g. public health issues and diversion to minors and/or neighboring states.
A variety of other issues were discussed over the course of the event, such as banking restrictions and ways for NCIA members to engage the community. Overall, this was a thought provoking discussion that indicates the cannabis industry is seriously engaged in the ongoing policy debate, not just focused electoral victories.
Follow Harris Kenny on Twitter @harriskenny.