Marijuana Crackdown? Not so fast…
Written By Lucas Kibby
Jeff Sessions withdrew a “hands-off” policy that has been in place since the Obama-era Cole memo.
The Cole memo announced, back in 2013, that federal law enforcement agencies would not interfere with states with legalized marijuana. As long as states were taking adequate actions to keep legal marijuana away from criminals and children, and prevented distribution across state lines, federal authorities would not prioritize enforcement of the federal ban on marijuana.
Instead of the hands-off approach, Sessions is allowing federal prosecutors to pursue federal marijuana enforcement. However, Sessions did not actually announce that there would be a crackdown on marijuana businesses, but rather that it would be left to the discretion of the local US attorneys in the various districts to decide how and when to enforce the federal laws.
According to Sessions, “Today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”
So will there be a crackdown on marijuana coming soon?
Not quite. For one thing, the Drug Enforcement Administration doesn’t have nearly enough resources for a serious crackdown on average marijuana users. That’s because recreational use is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, plus sales could begin in Massachusetts and Maine this year.
Although Sessions is sending a strong message nationwide about his long-standing disapproval of marijuana, he wasn’t necessarily directing federal attorneys to go after users to the extent DEA resources permit.
However, Sessions or other prosecutors do have resources to single out a business and seek charges against a distributor of recreational marijuana to make a point.
But don’t expect wide-scale prosecution anytime soon. Several U.S. attorneys in the states where there is legal recreational marijuana indicated they are interested in only going after marijuana distributors or users with ties to crime or violence.