Federal Law vs State Law

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The Trump administration seems to be contradicting itself when stating that policies are best set by the states, rather than the federal government. This is not the case regarding marijuana laws, the states are not equipped to design the policy according to the Feds.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly showed his opposition towards marijuana once again by rescinding an Obama-era memorandum that suppressed the prosecution of marijuana companies or activities if they deemed legal under the state’s laws. For instance, in the state of Maine, both medicinal and recreational marijuana are legalized. This means that businesses can cultivate and distribute marijuana if they followed certain regulations. This method allowed investors to make legal marijuana investments as well giving states a new avenue to generate revenue from sales.

Sessions’ memorandum creates enough uncertainty for legal marijuana businesses as well state regulators to slow down their efforts to create a legal market. The largest problem with the situation is that it does not address the original issue with marijuana policy. State and federal laws are conflicting with one another. Twenty-nine states have now passed laws legalizing some form of marijuana including eight states that have passed recreational marijuana laws. But, ultimately marijuana remains an illegal Schedule 1 narcotic under federal law.

President Obama’s method did not address the issue at hand, either. But, it did recognize that state laws have been changed through a democratic process. Voters incline approving legalization, yet all states do not allow its citizens to directly approve laws. Although flawed, it directed the nation to consider that Sessions’ memo, which permits prosecutors to use their judgment regarding marijuana laws in their district, does not really change much. U.S. attorneys are residents of the states in which they are employed and are aware of local political sentiments.

The possibility that a prosecutor, such as Maine’s U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank, will decide to establish a higher significance for federal crimes where there isn’t a conflict between state and federal laws. Efforts may focus on cross-state sales of opioids, illegal guns or human trafficking. There is also a possibility that advancements made regarding the marijuana reform go down the drain. Looks like we will just have to sit back and see what the future holds for this budding industry.

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