Sessions terminates USA policy that let legal pot flourish

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.   Associated Press  Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Robert Troyer, who was appointed an interim US attorney for the District of Colorado by Sessions in November, said his office's decisions regarding marijuana cases would be guided by similar principles as before: "focusing in particular on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state". "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". Many conservatives are wary of what they see as federal intrusion in areas they believe must be left to the states.

Cannabis businesses across the United States said they are bracing for an investment slowdown following the US Justice Department's Thursday directive that will allow the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug.

While Sessions has been carrying out a Justice Department agenda that follows Trump's top priorities on such issues as immigration and opioids, the changes to marijuana policy reflect his own concerns.

In a briefing with reporters, a senior Justice Department official said it was unclear whether the new directive "will or won't" lead to more prosecutions, because that will be up to individual US attorneys across the country. Rescinding that policy will likely cause more confusion in the eight states that have legalized marijuana, as the substance has always been banned by the federal government.

In what became colloquially known as the "Cole memo," the department recognized that the drug was still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act but gave federal prosecutors permission to focus their resources elsewhere, so long as the states didn't threaten other federal priorities, such as preventing the distribution of the drug to minors and targeting cartels. It goes on to state that "previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately". "Given a non-perfect situation, we figured this was the best way to deal with it".

Senator Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, chided Sessions for "going after" pot users rather than big fish. "That's not necessarily being destroyed, but it is being thrown into question".

President Donald Trump directed his White House counsel to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from the Justice Department's investigation into potential ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter.

"The majority of USA states have legalized medical cannabis to at least some extent, and 1 in five Americans now live in states that have legalized recreational cannabis as well".

Now, some say Sessions's rollback enables law enforcement to racially profile people of color.

In practice, the previous guidance meant US attorneys in jurisdictions that had legalized marijuana at the state level were often reluctant to bring marijuana cases - though Cole's memo stressed Congress had determined it to be an illegal drug that provided significant revenue to gangs.

When asked whether the Justice Department was considering suing states that attempt to legalize the drug after this new policy has gone into effect, one senior Justice official said, "Further steps are still under consideration".

Among the first Colorado lawmakers to react to the news was Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who issued a series of forceful tweets early Thursday morning. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who co-sponsored legislation from New Jersey Democratic Sen. Now he's breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade. "I think that's something that really is very much up to the local area". "Colorado had every right to legalize marijuana and I will do everything I can to protect that right against the power of an overreaching federal government".

JOHNSON: Sure. At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president believes we need to enforce federal law, whether that involves immigration or marijuana.

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