Sessions Takes Aim at State Level Marijuana Legalization Efforts
Jan. 23, 2018
In states across the country, decriminalization of marijuana has been taking unofficial hold in a variety of ways as states seek to streamline their use of resources to tackle the more violent crimes. Unfortunately, that’s changing due to actions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions this month.
Sessions rescinded the Obama-era Cole memo, which ordered U.S. Attorneys in states where marijuana has been decriminalized (such as Colorado) to deprioritize prosecuting marijuana-related cases. To date, eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use and others have legalized it for medical use. At the federal level, the law remains largely unchanged. Marijuana use of ANY kind remains illegal, though medical marijuana establishments aren’t the target of Sessions’ action at this time.
Sessions is essentially urging federal prosecutors to use their own discretion to crack down on marijuana businesses where pot is legal for recreational use. Such businesses now have to worry about being raided by federal law enforcement at any moment. High profile raids on recreational marijuana business functioning legally at the state level could become the norm.
Sessions’ policy change will cool marijuana business development and lead to a loss of revenue from taxes where the drug is legal. A leading anti-legalization group said in a statement that Sessions change “makes investing in the marijuana industry a risky move.”
What’s the upside?
So far, it appears medical marijuana states (like Texas) are safe since a budget rider prohibits the Justice Department from using federal funds to go after medical marijuana establishments and users from states where medically-related cannabis is legal. However, it’s clear that Sessions has marijuana in any form in his crosshairs meaning that any form of marijuana legalization will face more uncertainty until Congress takes action.
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