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Attorney General Jeff Sessions re-introduces anti-marijuana laws
08 January 2018, 02:53 | Floyd Cook
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington in December.
Carolyn Kaster AP
Regardless of a state's marijuana legalization policy, under federal law, marijuana use has been and still is illegal.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday rescinded a trio of memos from the Obama administration that had adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.
The change allows for each state's USA attorney's to decide whether to aggressively enforce the federal marijuana law, even if it's also been made legal in their state.
"There are higher priorities: terrorism and opiates to start with", said Rory Little, a former prosecutor and a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law.
"In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the department's finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions", Sessions said in a memo to all federal prosecutors.
The policy being rescinded is known as the Cole memorandum, and was enacted as a response to several states passing more lenient responses to non-violent marijuana crimes, and a few years later recreational use.
The move raised questions about how it might impact tax revenues in states that permit some form of legal marijuana use.
Lessar said, "The way I understand it the government just wants to be more involved in crimes like exporting and selling to children, which is not something I would necessarily be against, but we hear changes every day so it's still uncertain".
The State of OR has had a lot of trouble recently with overproduction of cannabis leading to illegal exportation to other states.
"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.
The association suffered a separate setback December 28 when a state Supreme Court judge dismissed its lawsuit that meant to block the state Health Department from doubling the number of companies permitted to grow and distribute medical marijuana in NY. The goal, he said, was to encourage a tightly regulated industry letting legitimate businesses operate but keeping cartels and gangs out.
"I don't think it's going to slow down anything at all", Williams said.
The change, he said, removes "clarity and consistency" for an industry that depended on it.
"We believe USA attorneys' offices should be opened up to bring all of these cases that are necessary to be brought". "What he has done is effectively given discretion to the U.S. Attorneys on which cases to prosecute". Trump could nominate a replacement at any time or decide to keep Troyer, a career prosecutor and attorney. He has likened marijuana to heroin.
In California's Eastern District, newly sworn-in U.S. Attorney McGregor "Greg" Scott grew up in Humboldt County, deep in California's famed "Emerald Triangle" marijuana-growing region. The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment now protects state-compliant medical marijuana patients, caregivers and businesses from federal persecution, but it is only in effect until January 19; after that it will be reconsidered by a House-Senate conference committee. And for medical marijuana, "it is not likely an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals or their individual care givers".
"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.
Justice Department officials declined to say whether they might take legal action against those states, saying further steps were "still under consideration".
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