Recreational Cannabis Industry Wary of Trump Enforcement

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SACRAMENTO -- There was an air of excitement at the second California Cannabis Industry Association Policy Conference in anticipation of the legalization of recreational marijuana use.

Proposition 64 calls for regulations controlling and taxing the sales or recreational pot beginning in 2018, although the start date might be delayed because so many issues have to be resolved.

While exhibitors are already creating marketing campaigns, there is still the uncertainty about how the Trump Justice Department will handle current federal laws banning the drug.

New U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was quoted as saying during his days as a U.S. senator, "Bad people smoke marijuana...marijuana is not the kind of thing that should be legalized."

Donald Trump has rarely given his views on the issue, but once said during the presidential campaign that the states should decide on the legality of pot.

CCIA Policy Director Nate Bradley says he expects federal enforcement of laws transporting marijuana across state lines.

But others, including grower Michael Ray, who operates Bloom Farms, are cautiously optimistic.

"They have bigger problems to work on," said Ray.

The conference was designed to keep players in the new legal marijuana industry up to date with regulatory changes, growing methods, tax structure and policy directions. It also allows them to help craft regulations that the state is charged with creating.

In years past, elected officials have avoided marijuana conferences. But now that voters have approved Proposition 64, a projected $8 billion revenue stream to California can't be ignored.

State Treasurer and candidate for governor John Chiang is concerned that federal law does not allow banks to accept money from marijuana-based businesses, which could lead to money laundering and an underground financial economy.

Chiang and others say they can't wait for the federal government to decide on a course of action because legal sales of recreational pot will begin in January of 2018 although a delay of a few months is expected.

"We need to get some sort of resolution between the federal and state conflict in regards to cannabis but we can't wait because that creates a whole new set of problems," said Chiang.