Sessions up in smoke


Green states and marijuana advocates have been eager to see what the release of lax Obama-era regulations mean for their business and lifestyle.

Miles King, Staff Reporter

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions was appointed by the Trump administration, he made it clear he would fight against the legalization of marijuana on state levels. The morning of Jan. 4, Sessions delivered a memo to all U.S. attorneys effectively changing federal enforcement policy.

What does the Sessions memo say and what does it mean?

The memo begins with a paragraph regarding crimes and dangers associated with marijuana. Sessions then quickly moves into the procedures of the prosecutors and how they should decide which cases to pursue, considering federal law and priorities set by the attorney general. The last, and the most impactful, paragraph of the memo states “previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately.”

In the last paragraph, Sessions calls for any previous marijuana enforcement law to be removed. This includes the Cole Memo, an Obama-era policy that essentially turns a blind-eye to state level marijuana laws. The Cole Memo allows for states that legalize marijuana to be free from federal prosecution even though federal law remains opposed to marijuana.

What does this mean for the industry in legalized states?

The effects of the Cole Memo repeal are still unknown. The Sessions memo calls for the adoption and enforcement of previous marijuana laws under the principles set by Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti in 1980.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a statement shortly after the Sessions memo stating, “This return to the rule of law is also a return of trust and local control to federal prosecution who know where and how to deploy DOJ resources most effectively to reduce violent crimes, stem the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantle criminal gangs.”

Based on the DOJ statement, U.S. attorneys in each state will now decide how to go about prosecution. Attorneys across the country abide by federal law, so how they move forward is still unclear.

What is the future of legal marijuana?

The future of legal marijuana at this point is unknown. Although the Sessions memo is seemingly a step in the wrong direction for pot advocates, opposition from pro-pot states could lead to federal change in law, whether that be a change in the drug’s scheduling or federal legalization.

For now business continues as usual for local vendors such as The Firehouse, Green Shelf and Cannabis Central.

“It’s disappointing. We’re all just trying to do the right thing,” said Brittany Choyce, owner of Green Shelf dispensary.

Neither Green Shelf or The Firehouse has received anything regarding the Sessions memo from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, Drug Enforcement Administration or any other law enforcement.