Prosecutors in states that are pot-friendly to decide on crackdown
Whether to crack down on marijuana in states where it is legal is a decision that will now rest with those states’ top federal prosecutors, many of whom are deeply rooted in their communities and may be reluctant to pursue cannabis businesses or their customers.
When he rescinded the Justice Department’s previous guidance on marijuana, Attorney General Jeff Sessions left the issue to a mix of prosecutors who were appointed by President Donald Trump’s administration and others who are holdovers from the Barack Obama years.
Legal experts do not expect a flood of new cases, and people familiar with the job of U.S. attorney say prosecutors could decide against using already limited resources to seek criminal charges against cannabis companies that abide by state regulations or their customers.
Meanwhile, after Sessions’ move, the vast majority of U.S. states that allow some form of medical marijuana were unexpectedly placed at risk of a crackdown and are warily watching developments.
Forty-six states – including Sessions’ home state of Alabama – have legalized some form of medical marijuana in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight of those states also allow recreational marijuana.
Among the guidance Sessions rescinded was the so-called Ogden Memorandum of 2009 that instructed federal prosecutors not to pursue cases against medical-marijuana patients and distributors who complied with state laws.
The only legal protection now for medical-marijuana growers, processors, sellers and users is a temporary measure sponsored by Republican California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Democratic Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer prohibiting the U.S. Department of Justice from using government funds to target them.
Rohrabacher, in a call with reporters and four members of Congress, said Sessions’ move should galvanize national support for marijuana legalization.