January 1, 2018, was a special day for cannabis enthusiasts in California. This is because recreational weed finally went legal, after being passed on passed on November 8th, 2016. The feeling of victory was short-lived, however, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently rescinded a number of memos from the Obama administration that had adopted a policy of non-interference with states that have decriminalized cannabis.
“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,” said Sessions in a statement. The New York Times reports that in a memo to United States attorneys, Sessions called the earlier policy “unnecessary.” He also pointed to federal laws that “reflect Congress’s determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime.”
As CNN reports, the move essentially shifts federal policy from the “hands-off approach” adopted under the Obama administration to allowing federal procedures across the US to decide how to prioritize resources to crack down on weed possession, distribution and cultivation of the herb in states where it has been legalized.
Because marijuana has killed 0 people in our planet’s history, has components proven to remedy various types of cancer, and is safer than alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs, and even caffeine, the overwhelming response to Sessions’ statement has not been positive. Senator Cory Gardner (Rep. of Colorado), for instance, threatened to retaliate by “holding up Justice Department appointments that required Senate approval.” He also accused Sessions of violating promises he made to not interfere.
“With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states,” Mr. Gardner wrote on Twitter. He added: “I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.”
Justice Department officials did not disclose whether or not they intend to conduct a crackdown and begin prosecuting commercial growers, distributors, and shopkeepers, or if they are merely attempting to spread fear to slow growth of the partially-legal industry.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added no further clarification when she said that President Trump is “not going back on a campaign promise to refrain from using federal authority to shut down sales of recreational marijuana in states where they are legal,” according to The New York Times. Rather, the Justice Department move “simply gives prosecutors the tools to take on large-scale distributors and enforce federal law. The president’s position hasn’t changed, but he does strongly believe that we have to enforce federal law.”
Pot advocates are not so sure. Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, a Democrat, said Sessions’ intention is to “rip the framework from underneath us.” While this seems clear, activists will have to wait and see what action is taken as a result of Sessions’ latest move.
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