Advocacy groups in Oregon, California and Washington joined forces Wednesday to form a West Coast lobby for legal marijuana.

The Oregon Cannabis Association, the California Cannabis Industry Association and The Cannabis Alliance, of Washington, announced an information and resource sharing agreement to address cannabis policy in their respective states. Adult use of marijuana is legal in all three states.

The combination was underway before U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rollback Jan. 3 of the Cole Memo, said Lara Kaminsky, executive director of The Cannabis Alliance. The Cole Memo, an Obama administration policy, essentially allowed states where marijuana is legalized to regulate the drug themselves without federal interference, provided they adhered to guidelines in the memo. Marijuana is an illegal substance under federal law.

“Mainly what (Sessions) did was underscore the need we had already identified to be in better communication with one another,” Kaminsky said Wednesday.

The three organizations together represent more than 1,000 businesses that employ thousands and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, according to a news release. “We will be the largest and most powerful voice for the West Coast,” the release quoted Lindsay Robinson, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, as saying.

Adult-use marijuana became legal Jan. 1 in California. Washington legalized recreational cannabis in 2012; Oregon followed suit in 2014.

Kaminsky said the alliance would serve to communicate best industry practices as well as the regulatory experience in each state. For example, she said, some of the issues that California might be dealing with as its medical marijuana markets transition to adult, recreational use is something Washington legislators have already dealt with.

Kaminsky added that the three organizations may lobby together in Washington, D.C., for a change in federal law, but “that’s not determined, as of yet.”

The release quoted Amy Margolis, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Alliance, as saying: “Our organizations strongly believe that we must move towards a collaborative process to ensure that we maximize our political power, offer our members the most comprehensive benefits possible and stand together against existential federal threats.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

19307548