Federal Policy Update

On Jan. 4, 2018, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo to announce a reversal of federal marijuana enforcement policy, rescinding five Obama-era memos that guided U.S attorneys to take a hands-off approach in regards to investigating and prosecuting state-legal marijuana businesses complying with state law.

“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 press release.

According to Sessions’ memo, “previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately.”

While Sessions has been a vocal opponent of state-legal marijuana, politicians are outraged that Sessions has actually reversed federal marijuana enforcement policy because it violates President Donald Trump’s campaign promise not to get involved in state-legal marijuana.

“This is outrageous. Going against the majority of Americans—including a majority of Republican voters—who want the federal government to stay out of the way is perhaps one of the stupidest decisions the Attorney General has made,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, in a press release. “One wonders if Trump was consulted—it is Jeff Sessions after all—because this would violate his campaign promise not to interfere with state marijuana laws.”

According to a statement issued by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., “The Trump Administration needs to back off, and allow marijuana to be treated like alcohol under the law. At stake is a growing industry that has created 23,000 jobs and generated $200 million in tax revenue in Colorado. I’m calling on President Trump to overrule Attorney General Sessions and protect consumers, our economy, the will of the voters, and states’ rights.”

Polis is joined by fellow Coloradan Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who also wants the Trump Administration to reconsider its reversal of federal marijuana enforcement policy.

“Before I voted to confirm Attorney General Sessions, he assured me that marijuana would not be a priority for this Administration. Today’s action directly contradicts what I was told, and I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation,” Gardner said in a press release.

If the Department of Justice does crack down on state-legal marijuana, it will not be an easy task as states with legalization are already preparing for battle.

“My staff and state agencies are working to evaluate reports of the Attorney General’s decision and will fight to continue Oregon’s commitment to a safe and prosperous recreational marijuana market,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in a press release.

“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 laws against undue federal infringement,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.