New US pot rule sparks latest clash over states' rights

Indoor Marijuana Grow and Dispensary

Consider the new guidance on marijuana that Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued last week, which reverses Obama-era policy and gives prosecutors more leeway to enforce federal laws against the drug in states where it is legal.

"There are higher priorities: terrorism and opiates to start with", said Rory Little, a former prosecutor and a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law.

Even so, he added confidently, "I don't think you're going to run out of weed".

"However, any such federal enforcement/interference action, will, for the time being, be limited to actors in recreational states because the [Rohrabacher-Blumenauer] amendment to the spending bill for the U.S Justice Department...prohibits the DOJ from using any of its budget/resources to interfere with or prosecute state legal medical marijuana businesses", Kulick continued, saying that a "very complex and complicated" area of the law had just become more so. It tells the states that they are not free to do what they want about marijuana - or at least that is the rhetorical effect of the announcement.

The attorney general's anti-pot crusade runs against the grain not only of public sentiment - almost two-thirds of Americans say pot should be legal - but of GOP sentiment as well: A slim majority of Republicans support legalization, and support is particularly high (pardon the term) among young Republicans.

Federal prosecutors are not elected, but they often have long histories working in their districts.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which restricts USA attorneys from taking legal action against people who use medical marijuana or produce it, was maintained in a last short-term funding bill passed by Congress.

"The Attorney General's announcement is good news for public safety and public health", Canterbury said.

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Colorado's US attorney, Bob Troyer, said his office won't change its approach to prosecution, despite Sessions' guidance.

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner came out as a leading voice against the Sessions decision, and vowed to place a hold on Justice Department nominees until the matter was addressed. They hoped to avoid a patchwork of prosecution strategies, Walsh said. This decision will create massive uncertainty, hurt local businesses and tax revenue, and harm public safety by driving cannabis activity back into the more unsafe black market. The original Obama administration memo Sessions rescinded urged the federal government to leave policing marijuana to the states unless it involved gangs, minors or sales across state lines. "And, sure this is was a heavily debated issue, something that I've already said that I opposed but the people of Colorado spoke and they spoke loudly".

The change, he said, removes "clarity and consistency" for an industry that depended on it.

Of course, only time will tell what's in store for US pot. Some issued written statements suggesting the change would not dramatically alter their approach to marijuana.

However, Todd of Drug Policy Alliance said removing this policy "creates a lot of uncertainty" and represents a "direct threat to access".

Troyer took over the office on an acting basis when Walsh, the Obama appointee, left.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions today rescinded all prior advisory memoranda regarding enforcement priorities in connection with alleged cannabis crimes. The DEA has kept it as a Schedule I controlled substance, putting it in the same category as LSD and heroin, with "no current acceptable medical use". Additionally, the protection for medical marijuana disappears if the amendment is not renewed. It's another when your state is telling you your action is legal and the federal government is telling you it isn't.

However, federal law still makes marijuana distribution and possession illegal. Asked about the president's position Thursday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he supports enforcing federal law. "Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies", the senator said in a statement.

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