Sessions nixes Obama-era rules leaving states alone that legalize pot

Sen. Lindsey Graham

Medical Marijuana Patients Although Sessions's revocation included the Ogden memo, which protected state-compliant medical marijuana patients and caregivers from federal prosecution, it doesn't touch federal acts with measures that protect medical marijuana stakeholders.

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday rescinded an Obama administration policy that had eased enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that legalized the drug, instead giving federal prosecutors wide latitude to pursue criminal charges.

"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.

Other state officials expressed disappointment.

Here is the question we ask every time we consider allocating our finite resources to prosecute any of the vast number of federal crimes we can prosecute, from violent crime to immigration crime to opioid crime: will this prosecution make Colorado safer? And there are 20 dispensaries in the state, the association said. Still, the Justice Department, under President Barack Obama, took a hands-off approach.

In some states, recreational marijuana use has been legal for five years, and those states are vowing to fight this new memo.

Oregon's congressional delegation and state political leaders were swift in their condemnation of Session's announcement, arguing the Trump administration is being hypocritical on a common Republican refrain of states' rights and threatening to disrupt a burgeoning industry. "This is a very bad thing and it's very unnecessary, considering what the president said publicly and that we are dealing with an opioid crisis right now", Don Murphy, who actually served as a delegate for Trump and volunteered on his campaign, told TAC.

The change, he said, removes "clarity and consistency" for an industry that depended on it.

Billy Williams, the US attorney for OR, released a statement saying he and his peers have been directed to use reasoned discretion in prosecuting marijuana-related crimes. The United States Attorney's Office in Colorado has already been guided by these principles in marijuana prosecutions - focusing in particular on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state.

Troyer took over the office on an acting basis when Walsh, the Obama appointee, left.

Therefore, he said, USA attorneys should exercise "investigative and prosecutorial discretion in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations and appropriations". So far, marijuana is considered a drug as unsafe as heroine under US Federal Law.

As with purchasing and possessing, the federal government could come after you even if you follow Colorado growing rules to the letter of the law - but also as with purchasing and possession, that would be viewed as a waste of resources.

USA attorneys might continue to decide not to take up marijuana cases that don't fall under the Obama-era rules.

Murphy has been working on getting a federal medical marijuana bill passed since 2000.

"We don't know what this means", Durrett said of Sessions' comments. "Without that support, it's hard to see how the industry keeps growing", Sabet said.

Arcview Group, an Oakland investment and market research firm that studies the cannabis industry, forecast an $11 billion US market for legal marijuana this year - just over 60 percent for medical use, the rest for recreational use - and said it would continue to expand.

The pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project said Sessions' shift would only encourage the illegal drug trade and harm people using marijuana as a medicine, which 29 states have legalized.

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