Not far into the Trump administration, we are marking history’s most chaotic authoritarian rule via a narcissist’s Twitter account and a radical right wing presidential puppeteer, Stephen Bannon, who just moved on to the National Security Council. Despite Neil Gorsuch’s tenure on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, he has made few public announcements about cannabis policy. One way to gather more information is to look at his rulings. In one case, covered by the New York Daily News, Gorsuch governed a marijuana industry tax case in which a Colorado dispensary was forced by the IRS to pay taxes on their business expenses, which one typically is permitted to deduct. The dispensary in question deducted theirs but did not wish to disclose the nature of their business.
Gorsuch ruled against the dispensary, although he did go out on a limb and question the government’s strange and confusing federal versus state government pot laws and the “mixed messages” that continue to dumbfound all of us. Gorsuch stated, “This case owes its genesis to the mixed messages the federal government is sending these days about the distribution of marijuana. So it is that today prosecutors will almost always overlook federal marijuana distribution crimes in Colorado but the tax man never will.”
While Gorsuch didn’t care for the mixed messages, he didn’t really say which side of the fence he was on. He went on to wonder how the IRS gets to cash in on a business the feds consider illegal. This leaves the question lingering to many people: who has the final word and will the federal government respect the will of the people who have voted to legalize cannabis in over 50% of the United States?
Another clue on Gorsuch’s viewpoint came out on the Joint Blog, which reported that a former student of Gorsuch’s asked him several years ago whether he supported legalization of marijuana or not. Gorsuch responded by saying that, at the very least, he supports “the federal government getting out of the business of prohibiting in.” Still unsure what that means. Gorsuch also recognized the Obama administration’s willingness to allow legal cannabis states to work out their own problems. He even expressed worry that everything could come crashing down in the event of a new attorney general.