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By Steve Birr
Lawmakers are taking steps to protect residents who consume legally procured marijuana in Oregon from the threat of a federal crackdown by the Department of Justice.
It is unclear how aggressive the administration will ultimately be on the issue, but officials in Oregon want to ensure their voter-approved state law is protected. The bill will bar any marijuana business in the state from retaining personal information about customers for more than 48 hours and prohibits businesses from sharing customer information with anyone else, reports Reuters.
Lawmakers hope this will protect users’ identities in the event of raids and seizures by the federal government. The state senate approved the legislation in March and the Oregon House of Representatives gave their blessing Monday. The bill is heading to the governor’s desk, who is expected to sign it into law.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the governors of Alaska, Colorado and Washington, the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin April 3, imploring them to leave marijuana policy to the states.
The governors say they previously opposed legal weed but argue the policy is boosting revenue and helping reduce the “inequitable incarceration” of minority groups.
Sessions, a stanch opponent of legalization, is currently reviewing the Cole Memorandum, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that direct DOJ to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws. Sessions claimed in February “there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think, and there’s big money involved.”
“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors said in the letter. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sent a letter to Sessions March 2 asking for similar federal restraint on marijuana policy. Nine other senators, all Democrats, signed onto the letter saying states’ efforts should not be impeded.