Legal marijuana sales in the U.S. may be coming to an end, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions intends to end an Obama-era policy that has allowed “legal” pot sales in states such as Colorado and Washington.
As Bloomberg reports, Sessions is expected to announce Thursday that he is rescinding a 2013 policy that has allowed “legal” pot markets to flourish in states that have legalized it. The Obama-era policy effectively prohibits the federal government from interfering with “legal” pot sales in those states as long as steps are taken to keep it out of the hands of children and criminal gangs.
“Legal” has been used in parenthesis in the previous two paragraphs because pot remains illegal under federal law. The Obama-era memo didn’t legalize marijuana so much as restrain the feds in how aggressively they could crack down on states that had “legal” pot markets.
With the policy’s removal, federal prosecutors in states such as California, which just authorized legal recreational pot sales this week, will have broad discretion to prosecute marijuana growers and sellers as they see fit. According to two anonymous government sources speaking on condition of anonymity, Sessions’ move will allow these prosecutors to allocate resources to prosecute marijuana in their districts based on their own priorities.
Legal weed hurts prognosis for California medical pot market https://t.co/1Axz96kuMs
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) December 28, 2017
Sessions has been clear from the beginning that he is no friend of marijuana. The attorney general has repeatedly likened its use to that of heroin and once famously said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” By comparison, Sessions’ boss, Donald Trump, has been largely silent on the use of marijuana and has instead guided Sessions and the Justice Department to focus on Trump’s own agenda, which focuses on immigration and opioids.
What Sessions’ policy change will mean for the thousands of medical and recreational pot shops on the ground in the 29 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized pot for medical or recreational use remains unclear.
Anti-pot activists are claiming a small victory in the war on legal pot. Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of anti-legalization think-tank Smart Approaches to Marijuana, says that Thursday’s move will hardly be the last word on the matter.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Colorado Republican Cory Gardner has vowed to fight Sessions every step of the way, according to Raw Story.
“With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.”