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

Adjust Comment Print

Regardless of a state's marijuana legalization policy, under federal law, marijuana use has been and still is illegal.

Sessions' shift at the Justice Department comes days after marijuana became officially legal under laws in California, the largest state.

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.

Sessions named Richard Donoghue as interim chief federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of NY and Geoffrey Berman for the Southern District of NY.

The former senior Justice Department official behind the decision to harmonize federal prosecutions with state legalization efforts during the Obama told CNN in a phone interview Thursday that it's uncertain how Sessions' new memo will play out at the state level.

The weed business has bloomed into a multi-million dollar industry. They also declined to specify what message the attorney general is sending to the pot industry, which is expanding in states with their own more lenient laws.

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. The president had seemingly supported marijuana on the campaign trail, saying he thought it should be left up to the states.

More news: Deputies 'injured' after being called to suburban Denver incident

Obama-era guidance gave low priority to prosecutions of medical marijuana dispensing under state law.

Sessions said he would let federal prosecutors in each state decide where they would focus their enforcement actions, but states that have legalized marijuana are not exempt from federal drug laws. Sessions is leaving it up to federal prosecutors in states that allow its sale and use to decide whether to crack down on the marijuana trade. "I want the Trump administration to stand by its promises".

On Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president's position hasn't changed - "but he does strongly believe that we have to enforce federal law". The company is involved in the research, development and licensing of marijuana products.

Ben Sillitoe, the CEO and co-founder of Oasis Cannabis, explained what Sessions' move meant. What supporters have achieved is to pass a 2014 rider to the annual spending bill that has prevented federal funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana cases in states that allow it. Since then, the industry has amassed almost $1.3 billion in equity funding for marijuana startups, with more than $600 million in 2017 alone, according to research firm CB Insights.

Marijuana advocates from other organizations said Sessions' memo will set the clock back needlessly. But his department's ability to pursue criminal charges related to medicinal marijuana remains in doubt.

"Short of a much-needed change of USA federal drug laws, the [Cole memo] has helped reduce the pointless criminalization of non-violent drug users and of those producing and selling recreational cannabis", "This was a sensible move", Branson wrote in a blog post on Friday.

Comments