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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Rolls Back Memo Protecting States That Have Legalized Marijuana


On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back an Obama-era mandate that largely kept the federal government from interfering with state laws that allow people to use marijuana recreationally and medically.

The Cole memo, now rescinded by Sessions, refocused investigative efforts so that only the “most significant” marijuana-related offenses, like those related to drug cartels or minors, were pursued. The new memo reverses this guidance, and calls for federal prosecutors to enforce federal law for all marijuana-related offenses, even in states where marijuana is legal. U.S. attorneys will decide how much they spend enforcing federal marijuana laws.

“These principles require federal prosecutors deciding which cases to prosecute to weigh all relevant considerations, including federal law enforcement priorities set by the Attorney General, the seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community,” Sessions’ memo stated.

Despite state legalization efforts, marijuana is still considered an illegal substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act, making it illegal under federal law. How the new memo will affect marijuana growers, businesses and users of both legal and medical marijuana is unclear.

According to a report by the Associated Press, a congressional amendment blocks the Justice Department from interfering with states’ medical marijuana programs. This, however, would not prevent the possibility of prosecutions related to medical marijuana, justice officials told the AP.

Photos by United States Congress and Zenkyphoto