Jeff Sessions Is Ending The Federal Policy That Let Legal Weed Flourish
For marijuana enthusiasts, the name Jeff Sessions is synonymous with bad news. The Attorney General announced on Thursday that he has rescinded the Obama-era policy that allowed legalized marijuana to flourish across the country without interference from the federal government. The announcement comes only three days after the largest cannabis market in the country, California, legalized recreational weed.
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What is Sessions Getting Rid Of, Exactly?
The Obama-era policy that was in place prior to Sessions’ announcement barred federal law enforcement officials from interfering with marijuana sales in states where cannabis is legal. Essentially, it gave states their own autonomy in deciding whether to legalize marijuana as well as how to operate with legal weed, without fear of federal involvement.
Under Obama’s law, the legality of growing, selling and buying marijuana rested with the laws of the state itself, regardless of federal scheduling of cannabis. The trio of memos from the Obama administration adopted a policy of non-interference, with the main memo being known as the ‘Cole Memo’. As long as not interfering with legal cannabis didn’t obstruct more important federal priorities in that state, federal authorities were required to operate with a ‘hands-off’ approach in legal states.
Jeff Session’s announcement has caused a large amount of confusion in legal states. Whilst it is well known that there is a conflict between state and federal law when it comes to marijuana, Obama’s policy made it so that cannabis businesses and users in legal states could operate legally without fear of being prosecuted by federal authorities. The legality of these actions has now become unclear, resulting in a great deal of anxiety for everyone involved.
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.
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) January 4, 2018
His announcement has resulted in resistance from those both outside and within his own party. Senator Cory Gardener (Colorado) is among one the most vocal in his reaction to the news. He threatened to impede the nomination of Justice Department leaders in response to the move, noting that “with no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of voters in CO and other states. 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.”
What does this mean for legal states?
The full repercussions of Sessions’ actions are currently unknown. Session’s policy will let U.S. attorneys across the country decide what kinds of federal resources they would like to devote to marijuana enforcement in their own districts. How this will play out will likely depend on what the individual attorneys believe to be priorities within regions under their power.
It is also unknown how this will affect medical marijuana. Even though Sessions’ decision attacks medical marijuana as well, there exists a congressional amendment that blocks the Justice Department from interfering with medical marijuana in states where it is legal which could prevent prosecutors from bringing a case against someone using cannabis for medical purposes. This could mean that for now at least, medical marijuana is safe from federal interference. As such, it might be worth holding on to your MMJ card until the full effects of Jeff Session’s decision become known.