It’s no news that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has strong feelings about the cannabis industry. Since his appointment almost a year ago, he has promised to uphold federal cannabis law, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic under Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 812. This path is in stark contrast with the narrative in the rest of the country: 30 states as well as Washington, D.C., have some form of marijuana legalization on the books. Eight of those states (including California) and the District of Columbia allow recreational marijuana sales and use, with more planning ballot initiatives and legislative votes in 2018.
Up until now, those states have been able to manage their marijuana laws as they saw fit without meddling from the federal government thanks to a directive put in place at the Department of Justice during Barack Obama’s presidency that discouraged enforcement.
However, Sessions recently rescinded that directive, opening the door for prosecutors to go after states that have established legal cannabis. It’s unclear at this point whether prosecutors will actively start enforcement. Sessions described the move as simply him doing his job and enforcing the law. He also said he would leave it up to U.S. attorneys to determine what issues should be their top priority based on their resources. But the U.S. attorney in Colorado has already stated he intends to align practices with Sessions’ latest guidance.
President Trump seems to have flipped on this issue, stating last year that he would leave the issue up to the states, but recently siding with the Attorney General that federal law should be enforced. This has added more unnecessary confusion to citizens who believed this administration would align with the conservative tendency toward states’ rights.
Sessions is already getting pushback. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) has suggested not confirming nominees to the Justice Department should Sessions continue down this path.
It’s no surprise Congress might fight back considering the growing popularity of marijuana legalization among constituents nationwide, who understand its tremendous benefits. A CBS News poll last year showed 61 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization. That number increases dramatically to 88 percent when speaking about medical marijuana. More telling, 71 percent of those surveyed are against efforts by the federal government to interfere in states who have passed their own cannabis laws.
Besides personal opinion shifting, there are the enormous economic benefits of marijuana to take into consideration. If prosecutors start filing charges or seizing marijuana-related property, it would have devastating consequences on the local economies and state coffers in regions where the drug is legal.
Our Orange County marijuana legalization lawyers know this is a critical time in the country. While education and first-hand experience has helped most Americans dispel myths about marijuana, there are still growing pains while some hold on to outdated information. That’s why it’s more important than ever for marijuana businesses to seek guidance from lawyers knowledgeable in the continually evolving marijuana laws. We will stay informed on how changes at the local, state, and federal level could affect your business and help your business remain agile to these changes and establish a strong defense should legal issues arise.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients, defendants, workers and those facing criminal marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Use of Legalized Marijuana Threatened as Sessions Rescinds Obama-Era Directive that Eased Federal Enforcement, Jan. 4, 2018, By Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz, and Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post
More Blog Entries:
Jeff Sessions Intends to Crack Down on Medical Marijuana Where it is Legal, Dec. 10, 2017, Cannabis Law Group