Medicine

Jeff Sessions' Decision Could Complicate NJ Legal Weed Effort

Jeff Sessions' Decision Could Complicate NJ Legal Weed Effort

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era federal policy that provided legal shelter for marijuana sales in states that have allowed recreational pot, placing thousands of marijuana businesses in California and other states operating legally under state law at risk of federal raids and seizures.

Congressional supporters want to expand that protection to cover nonmedical sale and use of marijuana by adults, now legal in eight states, including California, along with Washington, D.C. They plan to add that proposal to a spending bill that is needed by January 19 to keep the government operating, and said Sessions may have unintentionally helped their cause.

Announcing a "return to the rule of law", Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded five key memos issued by the administration of president Barack Obama that discouraged enforcement of federal laws, which still classify marijuana as a risky narcotic like heroin.

Lori Ajax, chief of California's Bureau of Cannabis Control, which oversees the state's regulation of the marijuana industry, said California was conferring with other states to respond to Sessions' action.

Federal law still prohibits marijuana even as some states move to legalize it.

Only Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas do not allow any access to marijuana, said Karmen Hanson, a cannabis policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

SHAPIRO: What is the new Trump policy on marijuana?

"Today's memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all US attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country", Sessions said.

"We want to let Jeff Sessions know he can not undercut, undermine the will of the American people", said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, another caucus member. "The war on drugs has also been used as an excuse by local law enforcement to heavily police communities of color, contributing to the context in which large numbers of police killings of black people have happened, but if USA attorneys start enforcing federal prohibition in states that have legalized, those most affected will be people in those states who have built businesses, invested, and bought marijuana legally under state law, who will now have a very real reason for concern".

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"In California, we decided it was best to regulate, not criminalize, cannabis". However, she doesn't expect much change in the way they already handle marijuana.

In its place, New Agey Jeff Sessions says USA attorneys should decide for themselves which kinds of marijuana cases to bring.

Now, some say Sessions's rollback enables law enforcement to racially profile people of color. She did not elaborate.

JOHNSON: Sure. At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president believes we need to enforce federal law, whether that involves immigration or marijuana.

"It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States", Sessions said in a statement, which said the Obama-era policy that directed federal prosecutors not to target state marijuana businesses "undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission".

JOHNSON: They told reporters they can't predict whether there are going to be more federal prosecutions coming or where. It drew swift condemnation from advocates of criminal justice reform and drug policy reform. "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".

In some states, recreational marijuana use has been legal for five years, and those states are vowing to fight this new memo. But Arcview's leader, Troy Dayton, said the industry was resilient.

President Donald Trump's top law enforcement official announced the change Thursday. "The federal government does have an interest in this", said state Sen.

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


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