The Department of Justice rescinded an Obama-era policy on marijuana. In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes it clear that marijuana possession and distribution is against the federal law. The policy change came days after California’s new marijuana legalization law went into effect. Therefore he rescinded Obama’s policy which paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country, according to reports.
Per CNN, “Sessions called the shift a “return to the rule of law” but he did not go as far as some advocates had feared he might, stopping short of explicitly directing more prosecutions, resources or other efforts to take down the industry as a whole.”
Previously, GCE reported on California’s New Retail Recreational Marijuana License. Although marijuana is legal in 8 states, federal law trumps state laws. In fact, the federal government may criminally prosecute anyone that violates the federal drug laws. The Department of Justice will still go after more serious crimes impacting the community.
Former Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole’s Memo
In 2013, The “Cole memo” set forth new priorities for federal prosecutors. The memo essentially barred federal law enforcement officials from interfering with marijuana sales in states where the drug is legal,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Under Obama’s administration, they took a “hands-off approach” allowing distribution of the drug. This approach would stay in place as long as states agreed to keep the drug out of the hands of minors and drug cartels. Sessions’ shift in the policy now causes major confusion for states that have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical use. California projects sales of more than $1 billion annually in tax revenue within a few years.
Legalization of Marijuana
Perhaps the only way that justice will prevail is to make the necessary changes at the federal level with Congress. Since the announcement today, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado criticized Sessions’ plan. Two GOP senators have called for Sessions to resign.
Colorado is one of eight states where cannabis is legal for recreational use. In a tweet by Gardner, he said, “The Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters.” He also stated the action would contradict what Sessions had told him before the attorney general was confirmed. Gardner plans to take all steps necessary to fight including holding up the confirmation of Justice Department nominees, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Justice Department Issues Memo on Marijuana Enforcement
In the memorandum, titled Sessions’ Memo, Attorney General Jeff Session directs ALL U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities.
“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission,” stated Sessions.
Ultimately the state and federal government will have to come to a consensus on the legalization of cannabis. Supporters of legalization will seek the help of Congress to protect and promote this very lucrative business.
What do you think? Should the Attorney General roll back the progress made on this issue? Weigh in below.