News Worms
News Worms

States Won't Back Down From Sessions On Marijuana

States Won't Back Down From Sessions On Marijuana

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday reversed an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecution of drug crimes in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use-a policy that set the stage for weed to develop into a legal multibillion-dollar industry.

The Sessions memo did not distinguish between enforcement against marijuana used for recreational versus medicinal purposes.

"I'm appalled but not surprised at Sessions's decision to repeal the Cole memo, which urged federal prosecutors not to enforce federal marijuana law in states that had legalized", Drug Policy Alliance executive director Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno tells Teen Vogue.

Federal law prohibits growing, buying and using marijuana. They had closed down several hundred before Congress intervened with budget restrictions that halted the lawsuits - one of them targeting Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the nation's largest licensed cannabis dispensary - as well as most federal criminal prosecutions. "We believe today's development will further galvanize the industry and its supporters at state legislatures and in Washington as it has already begun happening in reaction to Mr. Session's new memo".

Democratic lawmakers also took to Twitter to denounce decision, as did Republicans in some legal-pot states. He threatened to retaliate by holding up confirmation of Sessions' picks for top DOJ positions.

"The people most harmed by the war on drugs in the USA have overwhelmingly been black and brown people, who have been disproportionately arrested, incarcerated, and deported for drug offenses, including simple drug possession, even though white people use drugs at the same rates", McFarland Sánchez-Moreno says.

In a memo sent to all USA attorneys, Sessions rescinded previous guidelines that essentially allowed states with legal marijuana to enforce their own pot laws.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee repeated threats made previous year when Sessions' interest in a policy change was widely reported.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the White House on December 20.

Leafly contributor Lisa Rough explains that the memo directed federal prosecutors to limit their focus to cannabis distribution to minors, those involved with the black market, and transferring marijuana from a state where it's legal to another state. "It's now time for Congress to put the brakes on Sessions' destructive agenda by limiting the Justice Department's ability to undermine states' decision making".

Sessions has just shown "how out of touch he is with scientists and taxpayers" and that siccing federal prosecutors on pot offenders will just needlessly jam the jails with more prisoners, said Jasmine Taylor of Human Rights Watch. "It can actually affect people's lives", he said. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed laws that allow the use, possession, and sale of both medical and recreational cannabis, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

"This battle will, unfortunately, play out in the courts while businesses or individuals are facing criminal charges for engaging in conduct that is legal in their state", Margolis said in an email to NBC News.

The Obama administration announced in 2013 that it would generally refrain from interfering with states that sought to legalize the sale and use of marijuana-still illegal under federal law-so long as those states implemented regulatory systems that kept the drug out of the hand of gangs and children, and helped prevent it from migrating to states where it is prohibited. "DOJ's move will slow down the rise of Big Marijuana and stop the massive infusion of money going to fund pot sweets, cookies, ice creams, and other kid-friendly pot edibles". He said during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and called it a "real danger". He also was accused of telling late assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Figures that he thought the KKK was "OK until I found out they smoked pot".


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