It’s no secret that Attorney General Jeff Sessions hates marijuana, Sessions has went as far as saying “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and has said that smoking marijuana is the equivalent to using heroin. The AG is now overturning an Obama-era policy that had opened the doors for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country. This news comes only days after California officially launched sales of legal recreational marijuana, which is anticipated to become the world’s largest market.
The move adds even more confusion as to whether it’s permissible to grow, buy or use marijuana in states in which it is legal at the state level, as federal law prohibits it. Sessions will now allow federal prosecutors to decide how aggressively to enforce the federal marijuana law in states that have legalized it.
Sessions has requested the abolishment of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which prevents Sessions as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using federal funds for the prosecution marijuana companies that operate in states where it is legal. For three years now, the DOJ has been banned from prosecuting medical marijuana businesses. But this September, the House Rules Committee impeded a vote to include the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment in the House’s federal budget proposal. If this amendment was discontinued in any future budget proposals, Sessions would have permission to use his legal authority and federal dollars to prosecute any medical marijuana company of his choosing.
In 2013, the Obama administration announced prevent states from legalizing marijuana, as long officials met certain regulations. Sessions is now revoking that memo, which was written by then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. The memo had shown how the federal government would act on states that began sales for recreational and medical purposes a little more transparent.
The marijuana industry is a rapid growing, sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that funds schools, educational programs and even law enforcement, yes that’s right, law enforcement. Twenty-nine states including the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal marijuana and eight states and the D.C. have legalized recreational use. Alone, California’s sales are estimated to generate $1 billion annually in tax revenue in the next few years.
Sessions’ new policy will permit U.S. attorneys to decide on the federal resources to assign to the enforcement of marijuana law based on what they deem as a priority in their districts.
“There is no more safe haven with regard to the federal government and marijuana, but it’s also the beginning of the story and not the end,” said Kevin Sabet, an anti-marijuana advocate. “This is a victory. It’s going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.”