DEA Chief Rosenberg Resigns – Now What?

Acting DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg announced on September 26th that he planned to resign, citing concerns over lack of confidence in the president and current administration. A holdover pick from the Obama Administration, his tenure will last until October 1st. While Rosenberg’s resignation leaves the future of marijuana up in the air, his replacement has not yet been named. To date, Rosenberg did not have a friendly stance on weed legalization.

As The Huffington Post reported, “Rosenberg reportedly clashed with the Justice Department after the DEA announced plans in 2016 to begin issuing more marijuana cultivation permits for research purposes. As of this summer, the drug agency had not approved a single new application.”

Rosenberg’s departure creates an uncertain future for cannabis legalization, in states where marijuana is currently recreationally and medically legal. What do cannabis industry leaders think this means for marijuana, moving forward? Here are some thoughts.

It Could be a Step Backward

This is bad. Rosenberg represented a level-headed approach to drug policy and the law even if he didn’t personally understand medicinal cannabis. Unlike the other impulsive and irrational members of this current administration, he continually pushed to increase research on the plant and agrees it is not like other Schedule I drugs. If current appointees are any indication of future ones, this may not sit well for the cannabis community.

– Danny Davis, Managing Partner of Convectium

We Have a New Opportunity

“It was Chuck Rosenberg’s memo on CBD that actively undermined the legal development of the American hemp industry and his tenure will be long remembered as being out of step with what Americans know to be true about the medicinal benefits of marijuana. The next head of the DEA now has the responsibility to bridge the gap between outdated policy and public opinion so we can grow the next great American industry.”

– John Ryan, Co-Founder, Ananda Hemp

It’s Time to Push Scientific Facts

The resignation of a man who referred to medicinal cannabis as “a joke” is a welcome one, although it comes with potential perils. Rosenberg’s chosen successor could have a major impact on the industry, which will collectively be waiting with bated breath to learn the identity of his replacement and his or her stance on cannabis. It’s a prudent time to appoint someone who acknowledges scientific facts and understands the damages and vast impact of the Drug War and why it isn’t working.

– Jeffrey M Zucker, President of Green Lion Partners

DOJ Intervention Could Happen

“Acting DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg’s resignation will most likely push the cannabis industry into more unfriendly territory. Though never a strong advocate of the substance – Rosenberg was quoted calling medical marijuana a “joke” in 2015 – during his two-year tenure, the acting DEA Chief has followed former president Obama’s counsel that federal prosecutors refrain from targeting marijuana operations in states that have legalized cannabis, and has attempted to permit more research on cannabis despite pushback from the DOJ.

There are two ways in which this leadership vacuum might be filled: either Rosenberg will be replaced by a new and inexperienced, but more marijuana-friendly Chief who must continue to resist the powerful influence of a determined Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been actively and vehemently pushing for more federal intervention into state-legal marijuana operations. Or more likely, the successor nominated by Trump will be more amenable to Sessions’ hardline stance and fall in line with the push to crack down on marijuana operations throughout the country – whether state legal or not. If this is the case, states will lose one more barrier to DOJ intervention, making marijuana operations much more vulnerable to federal interference and prosecution – a massive step backwards for the industry.”

– Jamie Schau, Senior Analyst, Brightfield Group

It’s Time for Congress to Act

It remains to be seen what, if any impact, Mr. Rosenberg’s resignation will have on patients and the legal medical marijuana industry.  Although it is believed that Mr. Rosenberg has been more supportive of medical marijuana research than senior officials at the DOJ, his past rhetoric about medical marijuana has been far from friendly.  If anything, the uncertainty surrounding his resignation demonstrates the continued need for Congress to act on the sensible legislation that has been introduced by members of both parties, including legislation that would require the federal government to respect states’ rights.

– Bryan Meltzer, Partner at Feuerstein Kulick

What are your thoughts? Where do you see the future of marijuana legalization headed with the implementation of a new DEA Chief?

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