Published: Sat, January 06, 2018
Health Care | By Alberto Manning

States Won't Back Down From Sessions On Marijuana

States Won't Back Down From Sessions On Marijuana

The action by Attorney General Jeff Sessions could have damaging consequences for the burgeoning marijuana industry in the six states including California and Colorado that have legalized the drug for recreational use, plus dozens of others that permit medicinal use. He said he was withdrawing an Obama administration policy that was meant to defer to state cannabis laws. Investment in the marijuana industry will probably dip.

Since 2014, Congress has attached amendments to the Justice Department budget forbidding interference with laws in states that allow medical marijuana, a list that began with California in 1996 and has grown to 29 states and the District of Columbia, with a combined 60 percent of the USA population.

The Obama administration announced in 2013 that it would generally refrain from interfering with states that sought to legalize the sale and use of marijuana-still illegal under federal law-so long as those states implemented regulatory systems that kept the drug out of the hand of gangs and children, and helped prevent it from migrating to states where it is prohibited.

Sessions, a longtime critic of marijuana legalization, says it causes spikes in violence and crime.

"The (Sessions) memo will mobilize us, mobilize the people around the country" who support legalization, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Costa Mesa (Orange County) Republican who has sponsored the budget amendments, said in a conference call by the House Cannabis Caucus.

"I'm very disappointed in Jeff Session's actions", Peake said Friday in a telephone interview.

Indeed some of the most vociferous reactions came from Sessions' fellow Republicans.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said that state was blindsided by the announcement, according to CNN. Session's memo repeals that Obama-era policy. Journalist Tom Angel in Forbes stressed that Sessions's recent decision contradicts Trump's campaign promises advocating for states' rights when it comes to marijuana policy.

Make no mistake: As we have told the Department of Justice ever since I-502 was passed in 2012, we will vigorously defend our state's law against undue federal infringement.

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Sessions is a longtime crusader against marijuana, a drug he has likened to heroin. 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.

Other state officials expressed disappointment.

Now, some say Sessions's rollback enables law enforcement to racially profile people of color. If Sessions can't address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needed an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general? Fortunately, elected officials and law enforcement personnel hailing from legal-weed states have responded in unison to the Attorney General's move by inviting him, in the politest of terms, to eat shit.

"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 and the ability of our local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission", Sessions said in a statement.

USA attorneys in California paid little heed, continuing a campaign they had begun in 2012 to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries by suing their landlords.

JOHNSON: They told reporters they can't predict whether there are going to be more federal prosecutions coming or where. "It's not a direct assault on the effort, but it is certainly something that is concerning", he said. "The biggest growth phase was during the (George W.) Bush administration, when we were facing SWAT team raids, and prosecutions on a almost weekly basis in California". On Monday, the first day of the new year, California, the most populous state in the nation, began allowing legal marijuana sales. But Arcview's leader, Troy Dayton, said the industry was resilient.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think it's up to the states, yeah. About half of the initiatives that allowed marijuana with low THC - marijuana's psychoactive compound - were passed by voters in ballot measures, and the rest by state legislatures, Hanson said.

Bob Egelko and Peter Fimrite are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers.

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