Published: Mon, January 08, 2018
Medical | By Alyssa Little

What Does Sessions Move on Marijuana Mean for Medical Cannabis?

What Does Sessions Move on Marijuana Mean for Medical Cannabis?

Brian Vicente, a Denver attorney who co-wrote Colorado's 2012 constitutional amendment legalizing recreation marijuana, said the industry will closely examine the background of any new US attorney nominees. Thursday's announcement is a major decision for an attorney general who has regularly decried marijuana use as unsafe. Evidently, Jeff Sessions considers these 2013 guidelines to go against the letter of the law.

"Marijuana is a failed experiment in Colorado and Attorney General Sessions' memo provides US attorneys the power to stop the powerful drug cartels from getting a permanent foothold in our state and bring drug dealers to justice", the statement said. "These principles require federal prosecutors deciding which cases to prosecute to weigh all relevant considerations of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community".

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

Prosecutors in Western states wanted guidance from the Justice Department when the likelihood of state marijuana legalization became clear in 2010 and 2011.

Yet officials suggested to reporters Thursday that businesses and growers in legalized states have gotten too comfortable and that the primacy of state law means very little in Washington.

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"I'm not anxious. Everything we do here follows state laws, and everything is up to code".

Weed users in the USA are living in a pretty precarious situation.

The new memo likely "reduces the level of comfort in the industry until it sees how USA attorneys actually implement it", Cole added.

David Kopel, an adjunct professor of constitutional law at the University of Denver and research director of the Independence Institute, said Sessions' announcement is sending a shock wave across Colorado, which not only changed its laws, but amended its state constitution to legalize pot.

"Given the Department's well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately", Sessions said.

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Arkansas voters took to the polls in 2016 to legalize the use of medical marijuana. "I also urge the DOJ to work with the congressional delegations from states like Nevada that have legalized marijuana as they review and navigate the new policy".

"Jeff Sessions told me this wouldn't be a priority".

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden from OR, where marijuana is also legal, similarly blasted the move.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, long a supporter of medical marijuana, called the Sessions memo "a direct attack on patients". Prosecutors there have always focused on marijuana crimes that "create the greatest safety threats" and will continue to be guided by that, he said.

Congress voted in its last session to extend a spending provision known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which blocks the Justice Department from using federal funds to impede the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. Sessions is leaving it up to federal prosecutors in states that allow its sale and use to decide whether to crack down on the marijuana trade. The open question is how broadly or narrowly that appropriations rider may be interpreted down the line, as it is an unsettled issue in the federal courts.

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