The new USA attorney in Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, a Trump appointee who was confirmed by the Senate in mid-December, called marijuana "a unsafe drug" in his statement on Sessions' action.
The Cole memorandum states, "The department's guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat that those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests".
That changed Thursday. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked an Obama-era policy that was deferential to states' permissive marijuana laws. The only time he's ever acknowledged marijuana was in May 2017, when he note (in a statement) that a spending bill he helped pass included a provision that prevented the DOJ from prosecuting medical marijuana cases in places where it's legal.
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A majority of states allow the use of medical marijuana and eight, including the entire West Coast and the District of Columbia, allow recreational use.
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.
Sara Lessar, owner of the hemp farm Oregon CO2 in Coos County is uncertain what this new memo might do to the marijuana industry, but she's looking at it positively. "The voters of California and Los Angeles have spoken and we will continue doing our job of reasonably regulating the cannabis industry in spite of Washington running amok".
The policy being rescinded is known as the Cole memorandum, and was enacted as a response to several states passing more lenient responses to non-violent marijuana crimes, and a few years later recreational use.
Marijuana advocates said the Obama administration policy hadn't had a long-lasting effect on use or regulation of the drug, and the Trump administration probably won't either. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner stated shock at the decision, as it would apparently contradict private assurances received from Mr. Sessions before his appointment.
The immediate reaction to Thursday's news from the marijuana industry and some members of Congress was alarm.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden from OR, where marijuana is also legal, similarly blasted the move. Colorado has a new statewide plant-count limit (the cap of twelve applies to everyone including medical patients, unless they receive a plant-count extension from the state), but it falls to local and state law enforcement officials to enforce that.
Grant Osborn replaces a jar of marijuana to the display case at Sweet Relief in Astoria.
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. Now he's breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade.
"We use the money we get from marijuana sales to fund our school resource officer and to bring in a D.A.R.E officer to speak to the schools", North Bend City Administrator Terence O'Connor said. 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.