Federal Crackdown Likely Won't Impact Oklahoma Vote on Medicinal Marijuana


U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank issued a statement about his office's drug prosecution priorities less than a week after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama administration policy under which states, including ME, legalized marijuana for recreational use without fear of prosecution from the Department of Justice.

Sessions rescinded a 2013 memo in which the Obama administration declared it would not block states from legalizing marijuana as long as officials act to keep it from migrating to places where it remains outlawed and to keep it out of the hands of criminal gangs and children.

The group's president, Kevin Sabet, said on a conference call with reporters that federal authorities have never focused enforcement on low-level users, and that the new Justice Department guidance will prompt USA attorneys to go after the big players in the industry.

It's not even clear whether his views hew to those of his boss, President Donald Trump, who in a July 2016 interview said that, if elected, he would not advocate a federal crackdown on states that had legalized recreational marijuana sales.

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Frank, in a release sent out late Tuesday afternoon, said that growing, distributing and possessing marijuana is illegal under federal law and "my job is to enforce federal law, not countermand it".

"Given the Department's well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately", he wrote in the document dated January 4.

That rider, called the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, expires January 19.

Sessions announced the change Thursday when a blizzard shut down federal and state offices and schools throughout the state. The 93 US attorneys around the nation still have the discretion to back off and deploy their limited resources against more serious crimes. The Cole Memorandum directed federal prosecutors to generally refrain from prosecuting those in the marijuana field who were complying with state law.

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Many people expect the medical-marijuana amendment to be renewed - as it has been since 2014 - because it has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

In light of Session's decision, Frank said, his office will operate on a case-by-case basis, balancing the Justice Department's policies and his office's resources. No, it's not a wonder drug, and yes, there need to be limits on its use. Former Western District U-S Attorney Sandy Coats in Oklahoma believes the focus is on RECREATIONAL marijuana, not necessarily medicinal.

The practical effect of Jeff Sessions' decree rescinding the Cole Memorandum and instructing federal prosecutors to enforce the laws enacted by Congress when pursuing prosecutions for marijuana related activities remains to be seen. Ultimately, just as before, it is of utmost importance for those in the industry to take necessary measures to ensure compliance with applicable state laws and regulations, and assess their appetite for the risk inherently associated with operating in this gray area of the law.

"I think the legislature is going speak up loudly", she said.

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