Even though more states are starting to legalize the recreational use of marijuana under state law, it continues to be very much illegal under federal law. In the past, these conflicting laws generally weren’t a problem, largely because of an Obama-era policy that essentially limited the federal prosecution of businesses and individuals involved in the marijuana business as long as they complied with state law.
However, that may all come to an end now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has nixed the previous federal policy — meaning individual U.S. attorneys may now choose to prosecute individuals under federal marijuana laws, even if marijuana is legal under state law. The recent development has led many to worry about a possible federal crackdown in states where recreational marijuana is now legal, including Colorado.
New federal stance isn’t very clear
In the one-page memo sent to federal prosecutors earlier this month, it stated, “Given the Department’s well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately.” In a statement, the AG said the Justice Department’s previous policy “undermines the rule of law.”
Unfortunately, however, the new policy regarding the enforcement of federal marijuana laws has led to even more confusion in the states that have passed marijuana legalization laws. Some believe this vagueness is a deliberate attempt to discourage marijuana businesses by holding the threat of federal enforcement over their heads.
Ultimately, we will just have to wait and see if a federal crackdown ever occurs.