Days after recreational pot became legal in California, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided to revoke the Obama-era guidance that’s allowed state legal marijuana markets to flourish, according to the Associated Press, which also reports that Sessions plans to allow local U.S. attorneys to decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law.
Sessions’ decision puts state legal businesses in significant jeopardy. Large-scale growers, processors, distributors and wholesalers and even high-volume pot shops are now at risk of being targeted as though they were drug kingpins.
The Trump administration’s move flies in the face of public opinion. Support for legalization has never been higher. A recent Gallup poll found nearly two-thirds of Americans believe recreational marijuana should be legal, including now a majority of Republicans.
The attorney general’s move brought swift condemnation from both Republicans and Democrats in Washington. National Republican Senatorial Committee head Sen. Cory Gardner, who represents Colorado, where the marijuana market is legal and thriving, blasted Sessions as a liar. “This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation,” Gardner tweeted. “The Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states,” he wrote, vowing he’ll fight back: “I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.”
Gardner’s discontent was echoed by fellow Republicans in the Senate. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, another legalization state, called the move “disruptive” and “regrettable.” Rand Paul of Kentucky, where pot is illegal, called marijuana “a states’ rights issue,” adding, “the federal government has better things to focus on.”
On the other side of the aisle, Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, where marijuana is also legal, blasted the president. “Trump promised to let states set their own marijuana policies,” Wyden said in a statement. “Now he’s breaking that promise so Jeff Sessions can pursue his extremist anti-marijuana crusade.” For his part, Wyden is insisting that protecting state-legal marijuana markets must now be part of budget negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. “Any budget deal,” Wyden said, “must … prevent the federal government from intruding in state-legal, voter-supported decisions.”