Attorney General Jeff Sessions will soon be making an announcement that he is ending Obama-era policy by rescinding the Cole Memo. The 2013 memorandum represented a significant shift away from strict federal marijuana prohibition to a more hands-off approach regarding states that had enacted legal cannabis laws.
The Associated Press released breaking news this morning, stating that two people with knowledge of the decision told them the following:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding the Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country. Sessions will instead let federal prosecutors where pot is legal decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law.
Sessions is supposed to make the announcement sometime on Thursday. The Cole-Memo will be rescinded, but it isn’t yet clear whether Sessions will replace it with a new policy or go back to the old ways reminiscent of Regan-era politics. In November, Sessions reported he was considering a “rational” policy.
Those that reported the story to the AP said that Sessions’ new policy will allow US attorneys in the country decide what federal resources will be devoted to marijuana enforcement based upon what they believe are priorities in their particular districts.
Without the Cole Memo, states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use face legal uncertainty by federal law enforcement. Although legal at the state level, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, classified in the most dangerous category of drugs alongside substances such as heroin and methamphetamine.
Medical marijuana is legal in more states than it’s not, and recreational cannabis is legal in eight states, as well as Washington DC. When the Cole Memo was enacted, the Obama administration it would not get in the way of states that legalized cannabis.
As with many things under the Trump administration however, this too has changed. As long as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, states with legal cannabis laws now face a world of uncertainty.
Opponents to legal pot couldn’t be more pleased. According to Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, “There is no more safe haven with regard to the federal government and marijuana, but it’s also the beginning of the story and not the end. This is a victory. It’s going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years.”