CO state leaders fight to protect marijuana businesses

Cheryl Sanders
January 12, 2018

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Sessions provided no details other than saying individual US attorneys are authorized to prosecute marijuana operators as they choose.

They are surrounded by attorneys who have spent their careers arguing federal cases before judges who can make their displeasure with a USA attorney known in sentencing decisions and in the scheduling of cases. The move comes at a time when a major push to legalize recreational marijuana in Maryland is expected during the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

AG Sessions had been reasonably quiet for the last couple of months after a misfire in August, but on Thursday he launched a significant salvo in a memo sent to the Department of Justice for the attention of all US Attorneys.

"It throws all of the state laws into chaos", said Frosh, a Democrat.

It could be a very significant decision, depending on how it is enforced, says Lawrence Gostin, a professor of law and the director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. In combating the effects of foreign drug cartels, they note the work of a Mexican think tank who estimated that legalization of marijuana nationwide in the United States would have the effect of crippling the Mexican drug cartels financially, reducing their intake by $1.6 billion (or 80 percent) annually. Outlawing drugs also provides incentives for drug dealers to increase the potency, and thus the danger, of drugs, as higher potency products take up less space and are thus easier to hide from law enforcement. Numerous large grows similar to this example were grow operations that were selling the marijuana out of state and were at times connected to large organized crime operations.

Following the news, many politicians who had thus far bided their time on the sidelines suddenly had something to say.

Locally the legal marijuana business will not be affected by the policy change made by the Trump administration. They are taking a new and smarter approach to legalize and regulate marijuana.

Today's federal drug laws are rooted in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act under President Richard Nixon.

Walsh, the former USA attorney for Colorado, said sitting and incoming top federal prosecutors in pot-friendly states should rely on their staffs, who have years of experience investigating cases, to put marijuana in context with other priorities.

Maryland has licensed dozens of medical cannabis growers, processors and dispensaries. "This will affect our practice by perpetuating fear and doubt in the populace and renewing the war on cannabis", she said.

"Legal marijuana has become so entrenched in the USA - it's a multibillion-dollar industry - and I don't see the people who are behind this, people like myself, rolling over for the Justice Department, which means Congress will have to act", Morse said. Alaska allows recreational marijuana use.

There are some exceptions to this new law for certain medical marijuana patients.

The U.S. Constitution does not give the federal government any authority to criminalize marijuana. The memo discouraged prosecutors from going after people participating in the marijuana trade in states where recreational marijuana is legal, except in cases with aggravating factors.

Marijuana advocates are trying to get Rohrabacher-Farr included in the next spending bill passed by Congress.

In November, Costello signed onto a bipartisan letter that urged leadership in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to include protections for states that have passed a law that allows for the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

"I predict that Sessions is not going to be victorious on this", Paul told Smerconish. Harris has been a longtime opponent of legalizing marijuana and fought the legalization of the drug in Washington. For that reason, he said, California has even more potential than other states where marijuana is now legal to become a favorite pot-tourism destination.

"Despite backwards moves by the Trump Administration, I will continue to protect cancer patients, kids with epilepsy, veterans with PTSD and all Pennsylvanians seeking relief from legal medical marijuana", Wolf said.

Gov Jay Inslee condemned the move and says he will defend the Washington law.

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