Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended an Obama-era policy that led to the expansion of legalized marijuana across the U.S., The Associated Press reported.
The new stance will replace the “lenient-federal-enforcement policy” passed by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole with federal prosecutors able to decide how strongly they want to enforce the federal law prohibiting legal marijuana.
“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 prosecutors,” Sessions’ one-page memo read.
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado quickly voiced his opposition to the policy change on Twitter.
This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) January 4, 2018
In 2013, Barack Obama’s administration said that it would not get in the way of states that wanted to legalize marijuana as long as the drug was kept out of the hands of criminals and minors.
Now that the policy has been rescinded, federal law enforcement officials can interfere with marijuana sales in states where it is legal.
Political reporter Brandon Rittiman had asked President Donald Trump in 2016 about his view on marijuana, to which he responded that “it should be up to the states.”
Trump’s attorney general, on the other hand, has compared marijuana to heroin and blamed it for violence, the AP reported.
Sessions had met with with anti-marijuana advocates last month including president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, Kevin Sabet.
“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,” Sabet said. “This is a victory. It’s going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.”
The new policy will likely cause confusion in states where the drug is legal for recreational use, right after shops opened in California at the start of the year, as well as states where marijuana is legal for medical purposes.
Vice president of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association Jim Gerhardt told KATV the dangers of legalized marijuana in 2016.
“A week ago we had a 14-year-old shot and killed when he jumped into the backyard of a man’s house trying to take marijuana out of the backyard,” Gerhardt said.
Marijuana advocates voiced their opposition of Sessions’ policy change, and the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance asserted that the attorney general “wants to maintain a system that has led to tremendous injustice … and that has wasted federal resources on a huge scale,” the AP reported.
“If Sessions thinks that makes sense in terms of prosecutorial priorities, he is in a very bizarre ideological state, or a deeply problematic one,” Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno said. (For more from the author of “Legal Marijuana Expansion Across the US Is About to Hit a Big Speed Bump” please click HERE)