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AG, Jeff Sessions ends Obama-era policy that protects states selling legal marijuana

A senior Justice Department official told press today that Obama’s policy on marijuana from 2013 would be reversed. Marijuana is still federally illegal nationwide even though states are continuing to vote ‘yes’ for recreational and medical use.

Under the Obama policy, medical and recreational marijuana was protected from federal intervention. This allowed businesses in legal states to grow and flourish. With the reversal of the policy, U.S. attorneys will be able to aggressively enforce the federal laws against marijuana.

This is causing confusion and concern for the states that are already making recreational and medical sales. Just this week, California legalized state-wide recreational use, making the entire west coast marijuana friendly. Concerns are being posted on Twitter like this one from Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican whose state legalized marijuana in 2014.

 

Jeff Sessions has always been a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization as a United States senator from Alabama. At his confirmation hearing in January, he said he saw some value in how the Obama administration evaluated whether to spend resources on prosecuting marijuana cases in states that had legalized the drug.

“I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law,” he said, “but absolutely it’s a problem of resources for the federal government.”

In a video from 2016, during his campaign for president, Trump told reporters he had no intention of removing the policy.

“I think it’s up to the states,” Mr. Trump said then. “I am a states person. I think it should be up to the states. Absolutely.”

The flip on such a widely supported issue has lots of people concerned for their expanding marijuana business. It is already difficult for dispensaries, grow operations and processing companies to set up business banking accounts. With the new policy reversal it could be nearly impossible to get funding for budding marijuana businesses in states like California.

Amy Margolis of Greenspoon Marder, which has a cannabis practice, warned Sessions’ order “sets up a serious potential battle between the states with legalization and United States attorneys who decide to enforce federal law against the will of the voters and, in some cases, state legislatures.”

“This battle will, unfortunately, play out in the courts while businesses or individuals are facing criminal charges for engaging in conduct that is legal in their state,” Margolis said in an email to NBC News.

“And, in large states, like California, federal law could be applied differently in different districts resulting in patchwork prosecutions even within state lines.”

The days of safe harbor for multi-million dollar pot investments are over, this political move will inevitably slow down the rise of Big Marijuana and stop the massive infusion of money going to fund marijuana businesses.

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