Jeff Sessions Is Coming for America's Legalized Marijuana

Friday, 05 Jan, 2018

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded federal guidance on Thursday that reassured states they wouldn't be punished for legalizing marijuana, according to The Associated Press.

Announcing a "return to the rule of law", Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded five key memos issued by the administration of president Barack Obama that discouraged enforcement of federal laws, which still classify marijuana as a unsafe narcotic like heroin.

But the Obama administration was already doing that, Ari.

"This industry has been through a thousand challenges, and this isn't any different from what they've powered through in the past", Chris Walsh, industry analyst and vice president of Marijuana Business Daily news site, told The News Tribune in a phone interview from Denver.

Congress voted in its last session to extend a spending provision known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which blocks the Justice Department from using federal funds to impede the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.

"A few letters here and there might scare people", he said. "After all, this is 2018 not the 20th century", California state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. I am especially frustrated that this announcement comes after Sessions has refused offers from [Washington state] Attorney General [Bob] Ferguson and myself to meet with him to discuss these policies in person, after he has disregarded the input that we and other state leaders have provided to his department. This directed US attorneys to not interfere state cannabis laws. Our nation's longstanding federalist principles demand that we respect voters' wishes and that we permit these policies to evolve free from the heavy hand of Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department.

Cannabis business experts in the state of New Jersey said Sessions' statement may be more policy posturing that greenlighting prosecutions.

"Then what I think we're going to see is the elected officials in states that have legalized cannabis are going to come out very forcefully in defense of the industry".

Officials wouldn't say if federal prosecutors would target pot shops and legal growers, nor would they speculate on whether pot prosecutions would increase.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think it's up to the states, yeah.

Amy Margolis of Greenspoon Marder, which has a cannabis practice, warned Sessions' order "sets up a serious potential battle between the states with legalization and United States attorneys who decide to enforce federal law against the will of the voters and, in some cases, state legislatures". She did not elaborate.

Sessions' recusal left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of the Russian Federation investigation.

"In California, we decided it was best to regulate, not criminalize, cannabis".

The memo that Sessions withdrew, issued in 2013 by James Cole, a deputy attorney general in President Barack Obama's Justice Department, advised federal prosecutors to let states enforce their own marijuana laws.

"Medical marijuana was already used in California". "It's now time for Congress to put the brakes on Sessions' destructive agenda by limiting the Justice Department's ability to undermine states' decision-making".

SHAPIRO: What is the new Trump policy on marijuana? Among other things, prosecutors involved in the probe are trying to make sense of Russia's meddling in the election, which USA intelligence officials believe was meant to boost Trump and hamstring his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

A majority of states allow the use of medical marijuana and eight, including the entire West Coast and the District of Columbia, allow recreational use.

Wykowski said the fear of prosecution "could make investors more concerned about putting money into the industry".

Nevertheless, the threat to the industry shouldn't be disregarded, said Adam Fine, managing partner of the Boston office of cannabis-focused law firm Vicente Sederberg.

"Yet again, Republicans expose their utter hypocrisy in paying lip-service to states' rights while trampling over laws they personally dislike". "The likely impact of (Sessions' action) is that it will inspire advocates and businesses and state governments like California to provide more protection for legal cannabis businesses".