Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday moved to eliminate the provision that allows states to regulate the legal sale of marijuana and opened the door for a massive ramp up of attacks on legal pot businesses by federal drug enforcers.
Whatever you thought about President Barack Obama, his administration’s decision to get the federal government out of the business of attack states where voters opted for marijuana legalization was a win for states’ rights.
Sessions evidently is not such a fan of states’ abilities to determine what’s right for their residents.
As The Associated Press reported:
The Trump administration threw the burgeoning movement to legalize marijuana into uncertainty Thursday as it lifted an Obama-era policy that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will now leave it up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules collide with federal drug law.
Sessions’ action, just three days after a legalization law went into effect in California, threatened the future of the young industry, created confusion in states where the drug is legal and outraged both marijuana advocates and some members of Congress, including Sessions’ fellow Republicans. Many conservatives are wary of what they see as federal intrusion in areas they believe must be left to the states.
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who represents Colorado, one of eight states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, said the change contradicts a pledge Sessions made to him before being confirmed as attorney general. Gardner promised to push legislation to protect marijuana sales, saying he was prepared “to take all steps necessary” to fight the change, including holding up the confirmation of Justice Department nominees. Another Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, called the announcement “disruptive” and “regrettable.”
The policy in question was instated via what’s known as the Cole Memo.
The Cole Memo and FinCEN guidelines adopted under the Obama administration were heralded as an end to aggressive federal marijuana enforcement efforts that would allow state legalization experiments to run their course.
In a letter to Sessions last year, several pot state governors explained why the AG should leave Cole alone.
The Cole Memo and the related Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance provide the foundation for state regulatory systems and are vital to maintaining control over marijuana in our states. Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences. Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states. Likewise, without the FinCEN guidance, financial institutions will be less willing to provide services to marijuana-related businesses. This would force industry participants to be even more cash reliant, posing safety risks both to the public and to state regulators conducting enforcement activity.
So, people in certain states decided that prohibition of marijuana doesn’t work and organized to change their laws. Decriminalization is working.
Sessions doesn’t care. His only concern with this issue, it seems, is whether the federal government is able to exert the full force of its power making bureaucrats and private prisons rich with the disastrous War on Drugs.