Legal cannabis faces White House crackdown

Jeff Sessions rescinds Obama-era memo shielding marijuana-friendly states

Jeff Sessions has rescinded a memo providing protection for marijuana-friendly states
Jeff Sessions has rescinded a memo providing protection for marijuana-friendly states
(Image credit: 2017 Getty Images)

Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, has rescinded an Obama-era memo which shielded states that have legalised or decriminalised cannabis.

The Cole memo, named after former deputy attorney general James Cole, was directedin 2013 and was a “directive to federal prosecutors that essentially adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws”, CNN says.

Sessions said the move was necessary to give federal prosecutors the power to “disrupt criminal organisations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

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Sessions, who was a federal prosecutor in Alabama at the peak of the US war on drugs, “has long been a critic of marijuana and has likened it to heroin”, says the BBC.

On 1 January, California became the sixth US state to allow recreational cannabis sales. The state’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, said the policy shift "defies facts and logic" and "threatens the promise of a safe, stable, and legal regulatory framework".

The legal cannabis market reportedly now employs more than 150,000 people across the US.

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Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told The Guardian the move is “not just bad policy, but awful politics” because “nearly two-thirds of Americans, including an outright majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents” support legalisation.

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