Sessions nixes Obama-era rules leaving states alone that legalize pot

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Colorado lawmakers blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to rescind the Cole Memo, which shielded states with legal marijuana laws from federal charges.

"Today's memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all US attorneys 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", Sessions said. The first pot shops in MA are slated to open later this year. It also might spark something of a federalist crisis, and it drew some resistance even from members of Sessions's own party.

JOHNSON: Senator Gardner says the Justice Department is trampling on the will of voters.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Washington. It reverses a hands-off policy by federal law enforcement in states where pot is legal, like California.

"It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission", Sessions said in a statement.

In a statement, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said: "We will continue to work towards legalization and will resist any attempts by Attorney General Sessions or the Trump administration to impose its will on the states and to stop the progress that has been made to reform the prohibition-type mentality that criminalizes the use of marijuana". It says federal prosecutors should consider the seriousness of the crime and law enforcement priorities of the attorney general, among other factors, when deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute.

"The whole point was to do what we could to maintain some control in this area", said Jim Cole, former deputy attorney general and now a partner at Sidley Austin in Washington.

Asked about the change, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said only that Trump's top priority is enforcing federal law "and that is regardless of what the topic is, whether it's marijuana or whether it's immigration".

The office of Billy Williams, the USA attorney for OR, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. "I want the Trump administration to stand by its promises".

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MedMen, Southern California's largest marijuana retailer, is now selling recreational marijuana for adult use at two locations-one in WeHo and and one in Santa Ana-with three more in the works, in Venice, DTLA, and near LAX. The declaration renewed anxiety, confusion and uncertainty that has long shadowed the bright green leafy drug still forbidden under federal law but now legal in a majority of states as medicine and in a handful of those for recreational purposes.

The Drug Policy Alliance reported that 653,249 were arrested for violating marijuana laws in 2016. The headline said: "It's time for Jeff Sessions to go".

Ryan Tarkowski, a Pennsylvania State Police spokesman, said that based on a 2011 directive from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the state police are warning gun-buyers that they will not pass their background checks if they indicate they are medical marijuana patients.

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.

Sessions's long-dreamed-of crackdown has been expected by critics since he was confirmed past year.

Lawmakers from U.S. states that have legalized marijuana, including California and Colorado, denounced the directive, vowing to enforce their laws and protect the burgeoning cannabis industry.

Officials couldn't say what the ultimate impact will be on the legal industry or whether it will lead to more pot prosecutions.

"We don't view this as terribly disruptive, as enforcement decisions will seemingly be left to state-level AGs".

Marijuana advocates quickly condemned Sessions' move as a return to outdated drug-war policies that unduly affected minorities. "It's going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years".

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