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On Marijuana Law, No Politician Is a True Federalist
08 January 2018, 02:42 | Rodolfo Wallace
Chris Kleponis-Pool Getty Images
Cody Falk returns a jar of marijuana to a shelf after helping a customer at Sweet Relief in Astoria. Under the Attorney General's new memo, we have more freedom and flexibility to make decisions that make Colorado safer by prosecuting individuals and organizations for marijuana crimes that significantly threaten our community safety.
An Obama-era policy that made is possible for legalized marijuana to become a reality in some states has now been rescinded by the Trump administration.
Obama-era guidance gave low priority to prosecutions of medical marijuana dispensing under state law.
Retail pot dispensaries might be the symbols of legal marijuana, but they're hardly the only potential targets in Sessions's war on the plant.
"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 prosecutions", Sessions said in a memo to all federal prosecutors.
On Jan. 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo that enables the federal government to intervene in the legalization of marijuana throughout each state.
"I feel at this moment there's still just a lot of questions to be asked", said Oscar Nelson, co-owner of Sweet Relief Natural Medicine.
"There needs to be a difference of view between medical marijuana and recreational use of marijuana", Governor Asa Hutchinson said.
But the emerging pot industry is rooted in shaky legal ground, complicating regulatory, financial and advertising issues.
The memo refers to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, where cannabis is classified as a drug in the same category as heroin. "I feel that this is just part of this industry, and I feel hopeful that logic will prevail". A USA attorney in Colorado said he would not change his approach toward marijuana prosecutions, while a US attorney in MA said he would pursue federal marijuana criminal cases.
The federal perspective, however, has never changed.
Billy Williams, the USA attorney for OR, released a statement saying he and his peers have been directed to use reasoned discretion in prosecuting marijuana-related crimes.
"Therefore", he continued, "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".
Sandoval calls Nevada's marijuana industry a model for other states, while working within the guidelines of federal policies. But in the aftermath of Sessions' decision, he seems to have backtracked from that position.
The change, he said, removes "clarity and consistency" for an industry that depended on it.
The Oregon State Police a year ago released an analysis of the state's compliance with the Cole memo in light of legalization.
Since 2014, federal lawmakers have attached language to spending legislation that explicitly bars the Justice Department from spending resources to enforce cases in states where medicinal marijuana is legal. Cory Gardner of Colorado, which has permissive marijuana laws, threatened to hold up Trump administration appointees unless Sessions reverses course. Between 2001 and 2010, almost 90 percent of the more than 8 million marijuana arrests in the United States were for simple possession of marijuana. He pointed to the chill this would put on businesses, landlords, and particularly banks that are still hesitant to work with cannabis clients, despite the millions of legal dollars changing hands.
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