Federal pot policy change sparks confusion, crackdown fears

Sessions, a former Alabama senator, has long viewed pot as a public menace and a source of street crime.

Regardless of a state's marijuana legalization policy, under federal law, marijuana use has been and still is illegal.

Marijuana has never been legal under federal law, and it still isn't.

The justice department describes the move as a "return to the rule of law" to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crimes.

In short, Sessions is giving federal prosecutors around the country more discretion about enforcing federal law in marijuana cases, even in the states where it is legal.

Back in 2013, as an increasing number of states began to legalize marijuana, Cole released a directive to federal prosecutors that essentially adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.

USA attorneys around the country responded cautiously to Sessions' announcement.

Buying Marijuana Nothing about the Sessions memo changed how a dispensary operates, and it didn't force any state-legalized marijuana industries to shut down.

Senior Justice Department officials who were asked Thursday about the potential impacts declined to answer. They said it trampled on the rights of voters in those states and created uncertainty about how strictly federal drugs laws will be enforced.

Sessions said in a statement that the Obama-era policy "undermines the rule of law" and told federal prosecutors in his memo to "follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions" in deciding which marijuana-related activities to prosecute.

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But Henry Wykowski, a San Francisco attorney who represents leaders in the marijuana industry, said Sessions' action would encourage lawlessness.

"I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the attorney general lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation", Gardner wrote on Twitter.

While lawmakers were quick to defend OR state law, Coos County cannabis dispensaries seem to be uncertain, but ultimately unworried about the changes.

David Kopel, an adjunct professor of constitutional law at the University of Denver and research director of the Independence Institute, said Sessions' announcement is sending a shock wave across Colorado, which not only changed its laws, but amended its state constitution to legalize pot. "I'm a states person. It should be up to the states, absolutely".

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has strong words for the Trump administration: "We will not be bullied by an administration that seems obsessed with dismantling things that are actually working", reports CBS.

She said the Justice Department's new guidance "simply gives prosecutors the tools to take on large-scale distributors and enforce federal law".

Scott's spokeswoman, Lauren Horwood, said he declined to comment on the most recent federal move.

"The memo set out harms we saw associated with marijuana" but essentially said that otherwise "let's let the states deal with this", Cole told CNN.

"While the memo does not authorize going after individual users, it likely will dry up support from financial institutions and investors. We had no idea it was coming, and like you, we woke up this morning to the news that there was new direction from Attorney General Sessions", she said. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado said he plans to reach out to other legislators from states that have legalized recreational marijuana - Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington - to seek congressional protection for those programs.

The Obama administration Justice Department issued three memos on marijuana between 2009 and 2014.

  • Megan Austin