Attorney General Rescinds Obama-Era Marijuana Guidelines

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants criminal charges filed in states where the sale and use of marijuana is legal

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday rescinded a trio of memos from the Obama administration that had adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.

Recreational marijuana just became legal in California earlier this week, and it already looks like things might be going up in smoke. Ellen and Stu Smith are champions for the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain-and they believed something like this could happen.

Arkansas voters took to the polls in 2016 to legalize the use of medical marijuana.

But rescinding the Obama policy could have a chilling effect on the burgeoning marijuana legalization movement. Under those prior guidelines, known as the "Cole memo", the federal government promised to leave states alone when it comes to marijuana as long as they don't get in the way of several federal priorities, including keeping weed out of the hands of children and away from criminal gangs.

Colorado AG Cynthia Coffman said that her office could fight back if the federal government did prosecute businesses who are complying with Colorado laws.

It's worth noting that the Rohrbacher-Bluemenauer amendment must be approved each year, so it will come up for a vote again this year.

Q: How will this affect states that have legalized recreational marijuana?

Still, some were surprised by the move, which introduces extreme uncertainty into a flourishing market of growers, sellers, and buyers of marijuana.

Other state officials expressed disappointment. He pointed to the chill this would put on businesses, landlords, and particularly banks that are still hesitant to work with cannabis clients, despite the millions of legal dollars changing hands.

Some advocates and political leaders are warning the new Department of Justice guidance on marijuana prosecutions could have dire consequences for chronically ill patients for whom marijuana products provide a measure of relief.

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David Kopel, an adjunct professor of constitutional law at the University of Denver and research director of the Independence Institute, said Sessions' announcement is sending a shock wave across Colorado, which not only changed its laws, but amended its state constitution to legalize pot. She has not publicly said what her position will be on marijuana and did not immediately respond Thursday to messages.

Congress passed legislation in 2014 protecting medical marijuana policies.

Legal experts do not expect a flood of new cases, and people familiar with the job of USA 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.

Marijuana has never been legal under federal law, and it still isn't.

The change, he said, removes "clarity and consistency" for an industry that depended on it.

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".

While most local politicians met Sessions' move with swift condemnation, some marijuana critics are cheering it.

"This extremely misguided action will enable a federal crackdown on states' rights with regard to marijuana policy", said Matthew Schweich, interim head of the Marijuana Policy Project.

The association suffered a separate setback December 28 when a state Supreme Court judge dismissed its lawsuit that meant to block the state Health Department from doubling the number of companies permitted to grow and distribute medical marijuana in NY.

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