Published: Sat, January 06, 2018
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

Reformers Slam Jeff Sessions' New Policy on Federal Marijuana Enforcement

Reformers Slam Jeff Sessions' New Policy on Federal Marijuana Enforcement

Attorney General Jeff Sessions struck down an Obama-era policy on Thursday that discouraged enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that legalized the drug, a move that could complicate efforts in New Jersey to allow legal weed. Rescinding that policy will likely cause more confusion in the eight states that have legalized marijuana, as the substance has always been banned by the federal government.

Sessions' memo was quickly condemned by political leaders in states that have legalized recreational use.

Rohrabacher said a better, more permanent solution is a bill he submitted a year ago that amends the Controlled Substances Act so it doesn't apply to people who produce, possess or deliver marijuana in compliance with state marijuana laws.

Some states-rights supporters argue that the 10 Amendment, which grants rights to the states and the people not reserved to the federal government, allows for states to choose their own marijuana laws and how the laws are enforced by state and local law enforcement officers.

Session's move comes after the January 1 implementation of California's Proposition 64, which legalized the sale of recreational marijuana to adults in the state.

Gardner said he would take all steps necessary to fight the measure, including possibly holding up the Senate from voting on pending Justice Department nominees.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said that state was blindsided by the announcement, according to CNN.

On Jan. 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo that enables the federal government to intervene in the legalization of marijuana throughout each state.

Lori Ajax, chief of California's Bureau of Cannabis Control, which oversees the state's regulation of the marijuana industry, said California was conferring with other states to respond to Sessions' action.

The Sessions memo did not distinguish between enforcement against marijuana used for recreational versus medicinal purposes.

Marijuana startup companies said they were now bracing for a deceleration in funding.

"The president believes in enforcing federal law", Sanders said at Thursday's press briefing. "We had no idea it was coming, and like you, we woke up this morning to the news that there was new direction from Attorney General Sessions", she said. A US attorney in Colorado said he would not change his approach toward marijuana prosecutions, while a USA attorney in MA said he would pursue federal marijuana criminal cases.

"If they close down regulated access to cannabis, all they are doing is opening it up to the cartels and the black market", he said. It also named the use of firearms, consumption on federal property, growing on public land, and intoxicated driving associated with marijuana distribution as enforcement priorities.

"It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission", Sessions said in a statement. However, it recently approved an extension of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana violations in states where that use is legal. They had closed down several hundred before Congress intervened with budget restrictions that halted the lawsuits - one of them targeting Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the nation's largest licensed cannabis dispensary - as well as most federal criminal prosecutions.

"The days of safe harbor for multi-million dollar pot investments are over", said Sabet, a former Obama Administration drug policy adviser who now heads Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

"Marijuana has been under a prohibition regime entirely in the time that the industry has expanded to where it is today", said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, representing more than 1,500 marijuana-related businesses.

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