Jeff Sessions Fulfills Dream of Cracking Down on Legal Weed

Jeff Sessions Fulfills Dream of Cracking Down on Legal Weed

When he rescinded the Justice Department's previous guidance on marijuana, Attorney General Jeff Sessions left the issue to a mix of prosecutors who were appointed by President Donald Trump's administration and others who are holdovers from the Barack Obama years.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions' new stance would allow federal prosecutors in states with marijuana programs to decide how aggressively to enforce federal laws.

However, the 2013 "Cole memo" served as a directive for how USA attorneys should handle the legalization of marijuana in order for the federal government to exercise a hands-off approach to states legalization.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The US Justice Department on Thursday (Friday in Manila) reversed official policy that had tolerated the growing state-based movement to legalize marijuana sales, just three days after California formally permitted recreational use of the drug.

The federal perspective, however, has never changed. "What he has done is effectively given discretion to the U.S. Attorneys on which cases to prosecute". On January 4, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman made similar remarks at a press conference.

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But the change will undoubtedly create some confusion and an uneven landscape, said John Walsh, the former USA attorney for Colorado appointed by Obama who left the office in 2016.

Supporters, however - such as Kevin Sabet of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana - said the department is "protecting public health and safety" with its new guidelines.

Sessions' decision feels vindictive and unreasonable, she said.

The Colorado senator said Sessions promised him that he would not repeal the Obama-era policy on lenient enforcement before being confirmed as the nation's top law enforcement official.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, also urged calm: "I think it will be the case where the bark is going to be worse than the bite".

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The change, he said, removes "clarity and consistency" for an industry that depended on it. Before Sessions' announcement, experts predicted the US market might reach $50 billion by 2026.

"At the California Department of Justice we intend to vigorously enforce our state's laws and protect our state's interests". In November, Sessions named him the interim US attorney. Sessions has railed against marijuana for years. He later became a career state and federal prosecutor who has spoken favorably of a previous federal marijuana crackdown.

Sessions' new memo does not explicitly set forth how prosecutors should treat medical marijuana, though a senior Justice official explained that prosecutors wouldn't do anything contrary to any current federal law. "We will evaluate violations of those laws in accordance with our district's federal law enforcement priorities and resources".

Medical marijuana already enjoys legal protection through an amendment attached to congressional spending bills that limits DOJ action against state-sanctioned medical marijuana providers.

"If this is in any way accompanied by a changing of the guard through the appointment of very conservative, anti-marijuana candidates, that's a red flag", he said. It's also generated confusion about what the policy might mean for marijuana users, sellers and states that collect taxes from pot sales.

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