Justice Department Rescinds Marijuana Guidance

On January 4, the Department of Justice issued a memo rescinding five previously issued guidance documents on federal marijuana enforcement policy, including the Cole memo. The 2013 Cole memo acknowledged that marijuana was still an illegal drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act but that federal prosecutors would not focus on enforcement in states that permitted marijuana. In rescinding the Cole memo along with the other guidance, the Department of Justice is essentially leaving it up to each state U.S. Attorney to decide on if and how it will go about prosecuting violations of the federal law. All of this creates uncertainty in the marijuana industry and comes on the heels of California making marijuana officially legal January 1.

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John Zasada is a principal with CLA and leads the firm’s financial institution regulatory compliance practice. He assists banks and credit unions nationwide in establishing regulatory compliance programs, conducting compliance testing, training staff on regulations, and performing website compliance assessments. In addition, John is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and state associations. Prior to joining CLA, he served as managing director at a top-10 accounting firm and as the compliance officer of a large financial institution, where he developed and implemented its first regulatory compliance program.

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