Sessions will end policy that allowed legalized marijuana to prosper


Attorney General Jeff Sessionssessions jeff gettyJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat House passes concealed carry gun bill Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week MORE will roll back an Obama-era policy that gave states leeway to allow marijuana for recreational purposes.

Two sources with knowledge of the decision confirmed to The Hill that Sessions will rescind the so-called Cole Memo, which ordered U.S. attorneys in states where marijuana has been legalized to deprioritize prosecution of marijuana-related cases.

The Associated Press first reported the decision.

Sessions, a vocal critic of marijuana legalization, has hinted for months that he would move to crack down on the growing cannabis market.

Opponents of legal marijuana celebrated the long-awaited action. 

“It’s pretty clear that the federal policy is going to be that U.S. attorneys will have discretion and the industry can no longer hide behind the Cole memo and say that they’re protected,” said Kevin Sabet, who worked in Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy and now runs the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “There is an unknown here because we don’t know how this is going to be implemented.”

It was not immediately clear when Sessions will formally revoke the agreement, authored in 2013 by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

The move is likely to put the federal government in conflict with states where marijuana is legal for recreational use. California on Monday became the sixth state to legalize recreational marijuana. Massachusetts and Maine are set to join those states later this year.

“It’s really the beginning of the story, not the end,” Sabet said.

Legalization has led to a booming marijuana business in some states, where wealthy growers and even hedge funds have invested millions of dollars in production and sales. Some industry analysts peg the North American cannabis market at $10 billion in annual sales.

–Mallory Shelbourne contributed to this report, which was updated at 9:18 a.m.

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