Attorney General Jeff Sessions is unleashing federal law enforcement — to crack down on marijuana legalization states.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has launched a new war on marijuana legalization.
On Thursday, Sessions rescinded a memo from former President Barack Obama’s administration that allowed states to legalize marijuana with minimal federal interference. In a statement, Sessions said that the move will allow federal prosecutors “to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”
In effect, this will let federal prosecutors use their own discretion to crack down on marijuana businesses in states where pot is legal for recreational purposes.
The move is a big deal for legalization efforts. While marijuana has been legalized in eight states and Washington, DC, it remains illegal at the federal level — classified as a Schedule 1 drug (the strictest such category in the scheduling system) with criminal penalties attached.
The Obama administration took a soft approach to the drug, essentially letting states legalize as long as they met certain criteria. But Sessions, who now heads the US Department of Justice, has pulled back the memo at the core of past lax enforcement.
The move could lead to a shift back to the days before the memo, when marijuana businesses that were deemed legal at the state level were often raided by federal law enforcement. That will cause more uncertainty in an industry that’s expected to grow by tens of billions of dollars in the next decade, while signaling to voters and officials that legalization at the state level is no longer enough for drug policy reform.
Advocates argue that legalization eliminates a black market for marijuana that helps fund violence around the world, moving the Read More Here