Feds change marijuana policy, which could affect businesses involved

06 January, 2018, 02:59 | Author: Hope Soto
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

I am especially frustrated that this announcement comes after Sessions has refused offers from [Washington state] Attorney General [Bob] Ferguson and myself to meet with him to discuss these policies in person, after he has disregarded the input that we and other state leaders have provided to his department.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday reversed an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecution of drug crimes in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use-a policy that set the stage for weed to develop into a legal multibillion-dollar industry. Bottom line - Justice officials say there's no safe harbor anymore.

Some prosecutors in legalization states issued statements on how they would proceed.

That reversed the election campaign stance by President Donald Trump favoring state marijuana laws, and set up a potential clash with the six US states that have already moved ahead to legalize pot sales. California's went into effect earlier this week.

The Obama administration announced in 2013 that it would generally refrain from interfering with states that sought to legalize the sale and use of marijuana-still illegal under federal law-so long as those states implemented regulatory systems that kept the drug out of the hand of gangs and children, and helped prevent it from migrating to states where it is prohibited.

JOHNSON: At a Justice Department briefing for reporters today, Ari, there were so many questions and so few answers. They had closed down several hundred before Congress intervened with budget restrictions that halted the lawsuits - one of them targeting Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the nation's largest licensed cannabis dispensary - as well as most federal criminal prosecutions. It's all kind of confusing, and that may be intentional. And this kind of uncertainty could discourage other people from entering the market and send a message to other states considering legalization.

"Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world", the congressmen wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. "Nearly two-thirds of Americans support legalizing marijuana use and the numbers are even higher among young people, but Sessions seems to be more fixated on his ideological crusade against marijuana than on facts".

"This means the world to us", Haleigh's mother, Janea Cox, told reporters when Georgia's governor signed the bill.

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For example, when asked about legalization back in October 2015, CBS Boston reported that Trump explained, "I wouldn't interfere because I think that really is a local issue". The administration believes this is the wrong decision and will review any potential impacts from any policy changes by the local U.S. Attorney's Office.

Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, an advocacy group for marijuana producers, sellers and customers, said a crackdown would prompt businesses to focus on medical marijuana and move some recreational pot sales underground. To hear her tell it, the Justice Department move simply gives prosecutors the tools to target large-scale distributors. He said he was withdrawing an Obama administration policy that was meant to defer to state cannabis laws. What are you hearing there?

Republican lawmaker Cory Gardner of Colorado quickly voiced opposition to Sessions' plan. "It's now time for Congress to put the brakes on Sessions' destructive agenda by limiting the Justice Department's ability to undermine states' decision making".

Just a day ago, Alabamians (well, at least most of us) were breathing a sigh of relief as Doug Jones was sworn in as the state's junior U.S. Senator. We are told that by then-candidate Donald Trump.

A majority of New Jerseyans (53 percent) support legalizing and taxing marijuana, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released in December.

JOHNSON: Actually there is.

SHAPIRO: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, thanks. Those spending limits are still in place, and DOJ says it's going to respect them.

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