Former prosecutor John Kirby noted the policy change does not instruct prosecutors to prioritize marijuana enforcement or push federal agencies into specific investigations. Instead of deferring to local laws, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will allow federal prosecutors discretion in deciding how to deal with weed.
Some medical professionals have cited uses for medical marijuana to manage chronic pain but the attorney general said previous year that the federal stance against marijuana as whole would not change in this administration and the herb would remain illegal at the federal level. Bottom line – Justice officials say there’s no safe harbor anymore.
Some prosecutors in legalization states issued statements on how they would proceed. And of course the timing’s unusual because several states have already legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. While U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman, Southern District of CA said his office is committed to enforcing the laws enacted by Congress, which treats marijuana as an illegal controlled substance.
Trump’s reported attempt to have a political ally maintain control of an investigation into his associates would add to a list of possible examples of Trump seeking to influence the Justice Department – and opening himself up to potential obstruction of justice claims.
While the federal government doesn’t have the resources to go after every business or cultivator, he noted, “It only takes a few prosecutions to destroy the legal industry in a given state”. It’s all kind of confusing, and that may be intentional.
Still, some were surprised by the move, which introduces extreme uncertainty into a flourishing market of growers, sellers, and buyers of marijuana.
According to a Thursday report from The New York Times, Trump directed a White House lawyer to urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe, which at the time was led by FBI Director James Comey under the supervision of the Justice Department.
SHAPIRO: As a candidate, Donald Trump seemed to express support for state legalization in Colorado where marijuana is legal. Officers destroyed a record 30,000 plants a year ago, surpassing the previous record of 8,800 plants destroyed in 2016.
“I think it’s unlikely”, says Brian Vicente, an attorney whose law firm works with marijuana businesses across the country. “I’m a states person”.
“I think the thing people miss is that [the Cole Memo] only ever applied to medical marijuana”.
SHAPIRO: And we’re going to speak with the governor of Colorado elsewhere in the program. They cite the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says states have all powers that the constitution does not delegate to the U.S. government or deny them.
Dickinson was one of 46 U.S. Attorneys who were holdovers from the Obama administration asked by Sessions to resign. But while Sessions gave permission to prosecute marijuana cases, a Justice Department official stressed that he did not explicitly call for that. What are you hearing there?
Sessions drew a swift and angry response from Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who said the AG was “trampling the will of the voters”. As of July, the state had brought in $505 million in cannabis-related taxes and fees since sales officially began in 2014.
And U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said, “We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made”. We know that there are friends of Big Pharma in the Trump administration.
“At the California Department of Justice we intend to vigorously enforce our state’s laws and protect our state’s interests”.
“If it’s an initiative [Murphy] wants to pursue, this won’t change that”, said Fanburg.
JOHNSON: Actually there is.
More significantly, this move by the administration runs contrary to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of US voters, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – who support the regulation of adult cannabis use and also strongly believe that decisions about marijuana policy ought to be a state issue, not a federal one.
Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown says the policy reversal could harm her state’s economy, where estimates show the marijuana market has created more than 19,000 jobs.