Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to tighten regulations on legal marijuana in states that have already legalized use of the drug.
Considering the progress that both the states and federal government have made in the last half decade regarding marijuana regulation and distribution, Sessions’ decision is concerning for those involved with businesses that sell medical and recreational marijuana.
“There has always been tension between the state and federal government,” Professor of Economics at Seattle University Stacey Jones said. “Entrepreneurs have invested lots of time and money to grow their businesses into successful enterprises. They thought that the potential to make a lot of money outweighed potential federal prosecution, and this risk reward tradeoff is why they are willing to accept some uncertainty.”
In 2013, Colorado and Washington stat which had both voted in favor of marijuana legalization, reached an agreement with the Department of Justice known as the Cole Memorandum. This piece of legislation proposed that states make their own decisions regarding marijuana regulation assuming that they each met certain guidelines, such as preventing sales of the drug to minors and drug traffickers.
The memo fostered a hands-off federal approach that allowed states to make better decisions regarding the individual needs of their state.
However, Sessions has since overturned parts of the memorandum which included its directives concerning how the Justice Department should use its regulatory power.
For example, under President Obama, federal prosecutors were advised to target criminals and illicit practices, and not to interfere with businesses that follow state laws regarding marijuana regulation. is precedent provided a clear pathway for marijuana businesses to expand and operate without the looming threat of federal prosecution.
With Sessions’ recent rescindment of the Cole Memo, the Department of Justice aims to stop recreational distribution within legal states.
A freshly rolled blunt is lit.
Sessions has been unsuccessful in preventing the distribution of medical marijuana. The Rohrabacher- Blumenauer Amendment prevents the Justice Department from using funding to interfere with medical marijuana businesses in states where it has been legalized.
Even though marijuana is legal in several states, federal law still states that marijuana is illegal. Therefore, some students and professors consented to have their ideas expressed as long as their identities remained anonymous.
A Seattle U biology professor expressed concern about how potential sanctions in legal marijuana states could prevent critical research and perpetuate the drug’s negative stigma from decades’ past.
“The benefits outweigh the negatives,” the professor said.
“Marijuana is safer than alcohol and has a lot of health benefits. Sugar and alcohol are both more addictive, and there is proven research that its psychoactive chemicals help with cognitive function and repair. The impetus to make it legal is so that you can do research on it.”
Still, Sessions’ actions against recreational marijuana remain a palpable threat for credible marijuana businesses around the country.
Congress voted to extend this critical amendment on Jan. 19. Even though it passed, it will only serve as a temporary resolution because the protections under Rohrabacher- Blumenauer will only last through Feb. 8. In that time, legal marijuana proponents hope to draft a more extensive bill that will provide legal protections for the states to continue operating independently from federal government interference.
Both the legal and recreational industries are economic successes, as Washington state in 2017 alone generated $1.2 billion of tax revenue from legal marijuana sales.
Sessions’ stance on marijuana is surprising to some, considering President Trump appointed the attorney general to his current position. President Trump adamantly stated on the 2016 campaign trail that he was in favor of medical marijuana.
Similarly, marijuana users are increasingly concerned at the prospect of having the drug become illegal again just a few years a er its decriminalization. A Seattle U student expressed his aggravation regarding the issue.
“It’s annoying to vote for marijuana and for it to be passed, and then right when it passes and I turn 21, it might be illegal again.”
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