Donald Trump’s Attorney General Could Terminate the Rule that Protects State-Legalized Marijuana

Article by Tim Fernholz, Quartz

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The US marijuana industry’s vibrant growth in the grey area of federalism could be threatened by president-elect Donald Trump and his preferred choice for attorney general, Alabama senator Jeff Sessions.

Sessions, an early backer of Trump’s presidential campaign and an outspoken critic of US immigration policy, is also an opponent of marijuana legalization. He has criticized the Obama administration’s approach to drug policy, including its tolerance of states where voters have approved the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

“It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use,” Sessions argued in a speech earlier this year. (Researchers are split.) “It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal. I think we need to be careful about this.”

Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance under federal law, but a wave of states have relaxed or eliminated prohibitions on the plant and products derived from it. Some see a tipping point at hand on a national level; on election day, eight of nine major initiatives to legalize recreational or medical marijuana passed.

Yet the primary reason that the professional and well-publicized marketers of marijuana in these states won’t being arrested by federal agents and prosecuted in federal court are a policy put in place under president Obama. A 2013 memorandum (pdf) written by deputy attorney general James M. Cole directed federal prosecutors to focus their efforts on criminal enterprises, with the implicit message to tolerate state-regulated marijuana dealers.

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