US Attorney General Ends Obama Marijuana Policy

Marsha Scott
January 5, 2018

On January 4, the Associated Press reported that attorney general Jeff Sessions will end an Obama-era policy that allowed legal marijuana to flourish in states, which has been implemented in states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. As a response, then deputy attorney general James Cole issued a memorandum in 2013 - known as "the Cole memo" - through the Department of Justice.

"Today, Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration destructively doubled down on the failed, costly and racially discriminatory policy of marijuana criminalization, trampling on the will" of voters, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

JOHNSON: They told reporters they can't predict whether there are going to be more federal prosecutions coming or where.

He said that he may also collaborate with attorneys general in other states that have legalized marijuana sales to fight any federal enforcement effort. "Jeff Sessions told me the policy would not be reversed, and today Jeff Sessions went back on his word", Republican senator Cory Gardner of Colorado told Yahoo News. Another Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, called the announcement "disruptive" and "regrettable". That report increased the public pressure on him to give up supervision of the probe.

Colorado's US attorney, Bob Troyer, said his office won't change its approach to prosecution, despite Sessions' guidance. Over the past years, over 150,000 jobs have been created in the legal cannabis market.

He fears that if the industry operates with a cash market, it could open up the door to the black market or cartels, which Colorado has worked for years to get rid of. What happens now is in doubt.

"In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the Department's finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions", by considering the seriousness of the crime and its impact on the community, Sessions wrote in a one-page memo to the nation's federal prosecutors. Trump's White House counsel personally lobbied Sessions to not recuse himself from the Justice Department's investigation into potential ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.

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Sessions, who has assailed marijuana as comparable to heroin and has blamed it for spikes in violence, had been expected to ramp up enforcement.

"The majority of USA states have legalized medical cannabis to at least some extent, and 1 in five Americans now live in states that have legalized recreational cannabis as well". A congressional amendment blocks the Justice Department from interfering with medical marijuana programs in states where it is allowed. "I can't sit here and say whether it will or will not lead to more marijuana prosecutions", the official continued. In plain terms, this memo made way for states to move forward with legalization with limited intervention from the federal government.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement that "states are really determining how this issue will be handled now and going forward, and I don't think this policy decision will change that". They also declined to specify what message the attorney general is sending to the pot industry, which is expanding in states with their own more lenient laws.

Sessions, a longtime critic of marijuana legalization, says it causes spikes in violence and crime. Sessions in the memo called the Obama guidance "unnecessary".

He and some law enforcement officials in states such as Colorado blame legalization for a number of problems, including drug traffickers who have taken advantage to illegally grow and ship the drug across state lines, where it can sell for much more.

But activists argue that legalizing the drug would likely reduce violence, since criminals would no longer control the marijuana trade.

Mueller also has obtained notes from Reince Priebus, Trump's former chief of staff, indicating Priebus and Trump talked about the president urging Comey to say publicly he was not being personally investigated, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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