What does Sessions' policy mean for the future of marijuana?

08 January, 2018, 02:51 | Author: Brian Mcdaniel
  • Trump-389

"Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies".

The weed business has bloomed into a multi-million dollar industry.

The State of OR has had a lot of trouble recently with overproduction of cannabis leading to illegal exportation to other states.

Whether to crack down on marijuana in states where it is legal is a decision that will now rest with those states' top federal prosecutors, many of whom are deeply rooted in their communities and may be reluctant to pursue cannabis businesses or their customers.

By Thursday afternoon, one USA attorney in a key jurisdiction said Sessions' new guidelines wouldn't change federal enforcement there.

Senator Jeff Merkley said, "There is nothing to be gained from going back to an era when federal resources were wasted prosecuting nonviolent cannabis crimes".

Scott's spokeswoman, Lauren Horwood, said he declined to comment on the most recent federal move. The conflict between state and federal law has been a hot issue at least since 2012, when Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational use of marijuana. The Obama era guidelines gave some leeway on this point, stating that prosecutors should leave states well enough alone when it comes to legalizing marijuana, as long as these local decisions didn't interfere with federal law enforcement primary directives.

"In California, we decided it was best to regulate, not criminalize, cannabis..." It would be a little like if we reversed the prohibition of alcohol right now.

Sessions is a longtime crusader against marijuana, a drug he has likened to heroin. Still, the Justice Department, under President Barack Obama, took a hands-off approach. She did not elaborate. Cory Gardner of Colorado, which has permissive marijuana laws, threatened to hold up Trump administration appointees unless Sessions reverses course.

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U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, derided as "hypocrisy" the policy change from a presidential administration that she accused of "trampling on the will of Nevadans and creating unnecessary confusion for our state".

Marty Riske, who backed the North Dakota ballot measure, says he doesn't expect Session's actions to jeopardize the future of the medical marijuana program in this region.

"[He] did not tell any U.S. Attorneys to go after any businesses", Sillitoe said. Federal agencies have "not historically devoted resources to prosecuting individuals whose conduct is limited to possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property".

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".

Former Republican Maryland state delegate Don Murphy, who now works in conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the AG's move, presumably sanctioned by Trump, is odd considering the populist wave in favor of decriminalizing marijuana across the country-not only in blue states, but places like Arkansas, the first Bible Belt state to legalize medical marijuana, and with 53 percent of the vote. "The biggest growth phase was during the (George W.) Bush administration, when we were facing SWAT team raids, and prosecutions on a almost weekly basis in California".

Wykowski said the fear of prosecution "could make investors more concerned about putting money into the industry". "This is an industry that Oregonians have chosen - and one I will do everything within my legal authority to protect", Rosenblum said.

"No matter what the (Trump) administration does, states will continue to hand out licenses to a long line of businesses clamoring for them", Dayton said.

Bob Egelko and Peter Fimrite are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers.

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