Sessions Unleashes the Hounds on Pro-Pot States


Top Oregon politicians were quick to respond to news from Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding enforcement of federal marijuana laws.

The announcement reversed a President Barack Obama-era memo, written by then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, discouraging prosecutors from pursuing marijuana-related charges in states - including OR and Washington - where it has been legalized.

That statement includes rescission of the Cole Memo, issued in 2013 and long regarded as providing a safe haven by cannabis entrepreneurs. He says things will now be left up to federal prosecutors.

That guidance is gone, effective today. Justice Department officials wouldn't say whether the move is intended for federal prosecutors to specifically target marijuana shops and legal growers. He said the federal government must "respect all of the decisions of the states when it comes to cannabis".

Legal experts do not expect a flood of new cases, and people familiar with the job of US attorney say prosecutors could decide against using already limited resources to seek criminal charges against cannabis companies that abide by state regulations or their customers.

The Cole memorandum states, "The department's guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat that those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests".

The Obama-era policy of going easy on marijuana just went up in smoke, but it remains to be seen whether the new directive of Attorney General Jeff Sessions will have any impact on New York's nascent medical marijuana industry.

"Opening the door to go after legal marijuana businesses ignores the will of the majority of Americans and marks yet another socially unjust and economically backward scheme from this administration", Wyden said.

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"We've got to build this coalition over the next several weeks, and really this coalition is already naturally formed with the states that have made this a issue a priority in importance", Gardner, a Republican, said. Altogether, marijuana sales in North America totaled some $6.7 billion in 2016.

"We believe USA attorneys' offices should be opened up to bring all of these cases that are necessary to be brought".

Adult-use cannabis became legal in July in Nevada, where the federal prosecutor's office is now in transition.

Sessions drew a swift and angry response from Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who said the AG was "trampling the will of the voters".

Brian Vicente, a Denver attorney who co-wrote Colorado's 2012 constitutional amendment legalizing recreation marijuana, said the industry will closely examine the background of any new US attorney nominees.

"It's time for members of Congress that believe in state rights and drug reform to work together to pass bipartisan legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allow individual states to regulate marijuana as they deem appropriate", McCarthy said.

But Henry Wykowski, a San Francisco attorney who represents leaders in the marijuana industry, said Sessions' action would encourage lawlessness. "If something does happen to occur because of this we'll just have to roll with it", owner of the Coos Bay cannabis dispensary Way High 101 Aaron McKinley said.

That reversed the election campaign stance by President Donald Trump favoring state marijuana laws, and set up a potential clash with the six U.S. states that have already moved ahead to legalize pot sales.