Jeff Sessions is Rescinding Federal Marijuana Protections

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Just days after California ushered in a new era for marijuana legalization by introducing a recreational market to the sixth largest economy on Earth, the Trump administration has positioned itself to undo years of progress by rescinding the integral federal protections that allow states to establish their own marijuana legislation.

Two anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the decision informed The Associated Press early Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would nix the Cole Memo, an Obama-era provision that ensured federal funds would not be used to enforce marijuana prohibition in states that had passed legalization. The sources added that, from this point forward, federal prosecutors in states with legal marijuana “will have deference to enforce U.S. laws on marijuana as they see fit in their own districts.”

This news complicates business operations for countless compliant entrepreneurs across the country who now must weigh the possible federal repercussions of following their respective state’s laws. In states where business owners could legally grow, process, sell, and possess cannabis products, the Cole Memo offered a layer of protection from federal scrutiny.

When reached for comment, Jonathan Blanks, a research associate with Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice, said of the rescinding of the Cole Memo, “This move endangers state-legal businesses and violates the principles of federalism that have been central to the Republican Party for decades.”

“While the average marijuana consumer is not going to be targeted or arrested by the federal government, business owners directly and indirectly involved in state-legal recreational marijuana distribution may see their freedoms and livelihoods threatened by this action,” Blanks added. “Put simply, the DOJ is using the criminal law to trample on state prerogatives and individual rights.”

The Cole Memo was introduced in 2013 by then-Deputy AG James Cole, promising to let states evolve their marijuana industries without interference from the federal government, so long as the states ensured the products were not leaving the state or ending up in the hands of minors.

Eight states (Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada) and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, while 29 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Erasing the Cole Memo also represents a stark disconnect from the campaign promises President Trump made regarding marijuana laws.

“I wouldn’t interfere because I think that really is a local issue. When you look at what’s happened in Colorado as an example, it’s a local thing,” Trump told CBS Boston in February 2017. “I wouldn’t interfere with it. I think that’s something that really is very much up to the local area.”

While AG Sessions’ stance on marijuana has been the worst kept secret in America, many believed the marijuana industry had achieved too much momentum for the prohibitionist to reverse course. President Trump issued an executive order almost a year ago that created a task force whose sole purpose was to investigate marijuana legalization around the country, develop an enforcement strategy, and issue recommendations for how the Department of Justice should handle cannabis. The recommendations were supposed to be submitted by July, but those findings have been sealed from public view.

You can read the offical statement from Jeff Sessions and the DOJ here.

Cover image courtesy of the Office of Public Affairs

About Author

Used to write about music for XXL, Elevator, Complex, Genius, and a few other outlets. Follow @LongLiveTheDuke on Twitter if you’d like to read way fewer words by me.

52 Comments

  1. Mr sessions is just like Mr trump a full blown idiot. would do the USA a great favor by resigning and go home never to be seen again He and Mr trump has done nothing but cause problems for the entire country.

      • What percentage of Americans are invested in the stock market? of that how many are middle class? What percentage of foreigners are invested in the stock market? To put in in terms you do not understand, the stock market is gambling for the wealthy.

        • Every one with an ira, 401k, annuity, as well as many life insurance policies are either directly or indirectly invested in the stock market.

        • It has everything to do with optimism. The American people are now very optimistic now with the direction of the country. Trickle down economics works. I have never been employed by a poor person.

          The president is opening up drilling in this country to start the optimism. Bad for the environment? Keep using gasoline from countries that I guarantee are not only exceptionally hurting the environment but oppress women as well. The hypocrisy from the left is deafening.

      • You seem so full of shit that it’s hard to know where to begin ─ the one bit you got right is the “stupid” bit…

      • You are ether delusional or ignorant. The stock market will fall like a rock when they find out it is mostly pie in the sky and his whole agenda is proved to be unconstitutional.

    • americans you must rise against stupidity and this guy names sessions seems to have an overabundance of this there are endless sources of good news marijuana finally so if he can’t read English get rid of him yesterday-you have no time for idiots playing such a game when marijuana has been proven beyond a doubt to be good for so many ailments lawmakers should have to have an i q of more than 90 to seek office or just 2 or 3 questions to see if their dealing with an idiot or not. if found stupid they should have to resign within 24 hours and i’m serious- a serious person who has no time for sessions

      • its me again-i just wanted to invite all americans to Canada to get away from sessions and asinine laws.by the way if you want to make real $ may i suggest a few stocks 1 organigram holdings 2 emblem 3 cronos group 4 emerald health thera 5 hydn new com 6 maple leaf green world 6 Namaste technologies 7 supreme pharmaceuiticals 8 inmed pharm .i also have aphria,canopy weed and aurora-these 3 have risen quite a bit lately.since sept on $8000 I’ve made 400% on my money and it’s not even legal yet.i know too many good americans to be dealing with more sessions crap so on behalf of a little intelligence ,come a bit north.others to watch medreleaf,cannimed,maricann,terra teck, scott’s miracle grow, ccan, cannabis sativa inc ,zynerba pharm, the mosaic co and so more look to new liscensed producers in Canada

  2. I am a President Trump supporter & a legal marijuana user.
    I trust President Trump but not sure about AG Jeff Sessions. Marijuana should be legal nation wide I believe. In Colorado it has brought jobs & opened business’s in my small town.

    • Jeff Sessions was selected by Trump and he works in Trump’s Administration. If Trump didn’t want Sessions doing this, he’d stop him. Last I heard, Trump wasn’t shy about saying what he thought in his middle of the night Tweets. He could even fire Sessions if he didn’t like his approach.

      So, given Trump is obviously going along with it, this is Trump’s doing. Wake up and realize that putting any trust in Trump is a losing bet.

  3. Someone change his mind, the states that have legalized marijuana are going to benefit financially. You can’t just say I’m not going to help the states work this out so the monies are put to good use, and not have to get their monies from the federal government, when floods, earth quakes or other disasters, instead of getting the funds from the federal government. The state would be required to put some of the funds in an account, JUST FOR MAJOR DISASTER.

  4. I think Marijuana should be legal for Medical and recreational!! Alcohol is legal and look at all the people that has been killed from alcoholic’s! Pot smokers can function and all they want to do is be happy and eat!! Marijuana helps people in many different ways! My son has seizures and it helps him from having them!

  5. Wow I recall Trump saying he supported legal pot what a lie F__king Presidents are like used car sales men!!!!!
    Both fill of shit !!!!!

  6. I am also a Trump supporter & a legal marijuana user.

    Cannabis helps heal other addictions.

    Helps Opiate dependence and fatal overdose.
    Many thousand opiate deaths
    Alcohol deaths 85K
    Tobacco deaths 435K
    Legal Rx drugs 32K deaths
    NO Cannabis deaths

    • Right no cannabis deaths…CA has some truly good policy laws.. Probably because most users go home, eat, perform their responsibilties and mind their own damn business.

  7. This is so stupid we went through this with prohibition don’t we ever learn from our past at all look what happened last time after a whole bunch of money was made illegally and now just like with the native Americans they always go back on what they said

  8. The remark from the CATO institute is revealing. It not only reinforces the affect of this change, that Federal law would supersede the will of the people at state level (based on a perceived “best interest of the public” argument), but highlights that this decision is directly contrary to the usual stance of a Republican Administration (namely, less involvement in States rights by the Fed).

    So it appears Sessions is acting independently of the Republican conservatives who placed him as AG.

    So one must ask why is Sessions doing this?

    We do know he is heavily invested in privatized prisons, and he has made it clear he prefers to control the populace through fear.

    Be that as it may, this action should spur those voters who “sat out” 2016 at their peril. Now is the time for action. Register if you haven’t and get ready for November 2018. The future is in your hands!

    Susan
    (aka Mamabudz)

    *I Toke & I Vote*

    • There are plenty of ways to fill those private prisons without going after those who grow cannabis. No. Sessions is a crusader, plain and simple. Logic means nothing. Facts mean nothing. Reason means nothing. Even money means nothing. Like so many on the right he follows only his own self righteous internal compass and will continue to even if everyone on the planet tells him he’s about to go right off a cliff because HE is right and everyone else is wrong. God told him so.

  9. I applaud the fact you are a legal marijuana user, and not afraid to announce that to the world, but how can you support Donald Trump, who since the campaign has told more lies than truths, bullied people, shown his opinion of women to be much lower than he espouses, and behaved like a third grader in his dealings with madmen who wield nuclear weapons, amongst other actions that are not befitting the leader of the free world. We’ll never get that title back. And Sessions has the same moral character…abominable.

    • I was thinking the same thing. How can anyone like weed and also support the man who is restarting the federal War on Drugs when it comes to cannabis? Makes no sense.

  10. Sessions is an ass, an out-of-touch dinosaur who still believes that Reefer Madness is a documentary. And hey what about the will of the people? Are we heading towards a dictatorship? Most fair-minded people know that marijuana is not at all harmful and beneficial to many people with illnesses. I’ve been smoking it for years and I’m a responsible citizen that never went on to harder drugs and have held the same job for over 30 years. Coho mr. Sessions and have some booze to relax and remember the Civil War ended over a hundred and fifty years ago. You are a disgrace as a tourney General why don’t you concentrate on the real problems of this country and leave people alone? Go away and disappear forever. When close-minded idiotic people like you die the world will be a better place.

  11. Leo "Skip" Dearing on

    Today I called the White House and left a message that I was so very disappointed in the US Government, President Trump and AG “Little Jeffy” Sessions for this very nebulous decision on the Cole Memo. I have sent e-mails to my Nevada State AG, my US Representative from my district and both US Senators. What in the G*D Damn he double hockey sticks is wrong with that man Sessions?

  12. Steven Carl Griffin on

    As part of the State of California’s growing MJ users, myself a medical consumer, I find Jeff “Keebler” Sessions new act of dropping the prior restrictive use of funds by the Cole Memo an act of treason. All but 13 states have taken it upon Federal Laws in place within the Constitution of the United States itself to legalize this herb. Now in a “prohibition era” like mentality Sessions plans to ussurp state laws in enacted in a feudal attempt that will no doubt cost these states multi millions of their newly invested funds to exercise it’s state rights. In an 180′ opposite direction of a previous comment, I do NOT trust Donald J Trump or his chosen ones. Over and over all if them have proven quite the contrary in every promise he made during his bid to win the Presidential election. If his base cannot see these facts placed directly before their eyes, I’ll now shout out and call everyone of them liars. Sessions is not removed at all from the same type of snake like movement in the methods used in undermining the individual state rights as previously mentioned.
    The concept of this type of new legislation, or trashing of the existing protections, constitutes a pre-meditated criminal act upon the sovernty of the citizens rights of the U.S. itself. This isn’t something that has just happened overnight. Everyone who doesn’t have their head in the sand or up their arse knew Sessions would follow through on this exact type of behavior once granted the USAG position. The minute he was nominated our weak willed Republican lead House and Senate allowed this tiny minded man to be excused from crimes past, present and the future.
    I’m not pretending in any manner the left is not part of this problem. NOT in a state of outrage almost this ENTIRE past year based, solely on the horendeous actions of our newly elected officers in charge, is close if not being acts of treason itself.
    This type of a “horse and buggy” approach in the running of OUR government is on the bottom of that slippery slope in the consistant breaking of laws that have been in place for years and some even decades.
    The potential loss of income not only to the business owners, who have legally obided by new state laws and guidelines, but also the states themselves are now in jepordy. To have these needed funds taken away for no true good reason whatsoever is treason. The massive fund pot created by the MJ industry has been used for every type of benefit one can imagine to each states own citizens. This money has highly improved those states overall capacities to do such necessary improvements.
    Remember this please, at the same time all of the states themselves have also abided by federal laws and guidelines which were placed into our Constitution for exactly this type of non federal intervention in the first place.
    Lastly, our founding fathers collectively banded as one unit in providing a protection of its people and individual righta. The states were given individual rights as well. These are facts not fiction.
    I can truly understand why the rest of the world looks at our country as a joke now and laugh at us. The guiding light of hope in the concept of freedom and of nonoppresion has all but flickered out. I’m proud to be called an American. Although I did not vote for this fool in office, I do stand by the theory in hoping the best will come from this or ANY new administration. That hope was lost while watching “the swamp” not get drained, but get filled with MORE muck by dumping into it the creatures now serving in the cabinet and the majority of other important administrative positions. In the revolving door of fired officials we have seen replacements filled by similar eliteists of the same self serving kind. Most Americans have been blatenly shown that these same characters will assure that all but the top tier will not benefit from their new policies.
    Unless your in the top 1% or on a Forbes list, you are NOT a member of this “Countries Country Club”.
    And you cannot order food to be picked up at the back door either. This club is PRIVATE!

  13. I don’t think people should worry bc the DEA knows a defendant will use the Rorabacher amendment that protects states with legal marijuana.

    • But what entrepreneur wants to deal with the hassles? It was enough of a risk even with Obama’s “hands off” policy because cannabis is still Schedule I but now the risks are untenable. Unless some billionaire is going to step up and guarantee defense costs I can see plenty of people, not to mention banks, jumping off the nascent legalized cannabis bandwagon. Sessions has done his damage without actually having to do much of anything.

  14. If President Trump has ANY thoughts of winning a re-election, he’d better shake some sense into the pea brain of Jeff Sessions. Stop trampling individual freedoms, you political hacks! Our state voted recreational in, as did others, so leave us the heII alone.

    The ultimate irony? Republicans traditionally HATE excessive federal government control over state’s rights. So why are they suddenly trying to impose unwanted control over the will of many states? Wake up, Trump….get your little Alabama stooge to focus on terrorism, criminal gang activity, and blue collar crime.

    • Trump already has zero chance of winning re-election.

      BTW, Republicans CLAIM to hate excessive federal control over state’s rights. In reality they try to use the federal government to control people in ways the Democrats would never dream of, with each and everyone of their crusades having the goal of trampling rights so fundamental the Founding Fathers never thought to provide them with Constitutional protections.

  15. If anyone lives in San Diego we should start a protest next week when trump will be in town and let him know that Jeff Sessions is a POS!!!

  16. Stop letting this parasite of and idea eat you up and feed off of your energies. When it boils down to the real, the Parasites actually think we acknowledge their egos. Would you let your neighbor come to your home and tell you how they think you should think and experience. Me neither. You don’t know these Parasites from a hole in the ground. Everything you know to date is what you have been told. They tell you what to think, what times to work their system, what times to pay your bills for the control they provide, what foods you should buy along with a plethora of other sinister ideas to trick and feed off of your life energy. They are Death Dealers that have you excited to line up and pay for your slow illusionary death. We Humans deserve better than this! Infinite Love to all!

  17. Remember when Obama was called gun salesman of the year, for several years? His administration did have that effect. Consider calling Sessions ‘pot dealer of the year’ because 1)he won’t like it, and 2)what he’s saying makes me want to stock up. I predict increased ATM & dispensary activity.

  18. another way to look at this-u have time now-sessions will be gone in 3 years or less and then u will see i law federally backing marijuana which will give ya’ll time to pick the right stocks and become marijuana millionaires it will be done right with no idiots in your way and the people who need medical will get it -if u can’t wait there are 7 countries looking at Canada now to go legal-we are exporting to Germany and Australia now and it won’t end there the whole world will get on board

  19. Thanks for the great article Duke. Always a pleasure reading your work. Seems to me that it’s no longer about party politics anymore and more about undoing Obama’s legacy. Republicans have always been about states’ rights, so why is this any different. Ah yes, because it happened under the Obama administration! To Republicans elected officials: Be wary! Your constituents will not like this and the Trump Train can’t save you when election season hits. Stand up to Sessions!

  20. The “united states” of america is a Old term and needs to be revised. so much division between left and right and the federal government needs to work on uniting the country
    why can the states not unite on this issue and have a updated federal policy

  21. I am so sick of this country. Doesn’t anyone have the balls to stand on the constitution! Our government is supposed to work for the people and not act as a controlling entity. The people in this country have spoken and our government has taken a stance to do as it pleases regardless. Our fore fathers revolted against the oppression of the British and the constitution states that we the people have the right to challenge the government and if necessary to take up arms against it. I’m 50 plus and I’ve seen our rights trampled into the ground! It’s been a slow but steady approach with trickery and deceit. Sad as it may be, “we, the people” have been lax and allowed this to happen. I’m not saying that we should take up arms, but next time you get ready to vote on issues that seem simple and straight forward, take the time to do your own research to see what the issues are really about and how they will affect everyone. Not just the cover issues. Don’t be lazy and form your opinion based on the publicized portions of the issues. WE THE PEOPLE are supposed to run this country, not the other way around. Stand up for your rights! That being said, if I want to put something in my body, WHO has the right to tell me I can’t???

  22. Jeff Sessions. You are supposed to work for us. You are an old man. Whatever the pharmaceutical companies are paying you, you can’t take it with you. I guess all I can say is enjoy that cash while you get older at an extremely fast pace. Lots of people are suffering for it. If leaving a legacy and not being considered an idiot when you pass away, be the good guy. Legalize marijuana. You will just be forgotten in a month as another old politician that choked on a bite of steak. You can be a hero or just another old man. No one will remember you if you do nothing.

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