Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinds Obama-era memo that held off some pot prosecutions
Stocks in Canadian pot companies were lower Thursday after the U.S. federal government rescinded an Obama-era policy that allowed legal marijuana to flourish in states across the country.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a memo that federal prosecutors should decide on their own whether to devote resources to marijuana cases based on other demands in their districts.
Sessions wrote that “prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions” by considering the seriousness of the crime and its impact on the community.
It is not immediately clear how the decision will impact pot sales, which are legal at the state level in eight states, and in Washington, D.C.
A 2013 memo signed under the administration of Barack Obama had allowed the pot industry to flourish in the handful of states that were moving to legalize marijuana at the time, and encouraged other states to join their ranks. On Jan. 1, California became just the latest U.S. stateto legalize recreational marijuana use, joining eight others that have done so under certain limitations.
The Obama-era memo reserved the right to prosecute if states didn’t implement basic safeguards to keep the drugs out of the hands of kids and organized crime.
The new Sessions policy raises the possibility that pot companies that currently operate largely free of legal problems may suddenly face them.
It effectively means an unspoken promise — that the federal government wouldn’t get involved prosecuting marijuana crimes in states with legal pot unless there were egregious activities — is now over.
“This is a victory,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was among several anti-marijuana advocates who met with Sessions last month. “It’s going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.”