Despite indications of a possible federal crackdown on marijuana, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department won’t take on “routine” pot cases and will continue to focus on gangs and conspiracies.
Federal prosecutors won’t take on small-time marijuana cases, despite the Justice Department’s decision to cancel an Obama-era policy that discouraged U.S. authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Saturday, the Associated Press reports. Federal law enforcement lacks the resources to take on “routine cases” and will continue to focus on drug gangs and larger conspiracies, Sessions said. The Trump administration in January threw the expanding marijuana legalization movement into uncertainty by reversing the largely hands-off approach that prevailed during the Obama administration, saying federal prosecutors should instead handle marijuana cases however they see fit.
The Obama policy allowed the pot trade to flourish, with eight states legalizing marijuana for recreational use. “I am not going to tell Colorado or California or someone else that possession of marijuana is legal under United States law,” Sessions said, answering student questions after a speech at Georgetown’s law school. He added that federal prosecutors “haven’t been working small marijuana cases before, they are not going to be working them now.” Federal authorities have tried for years to tackle problems like illegal marijuana-growing operations on national parklands and gangs that peddle pot along with more harmful drugs. It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will seek to punish state-sanctioned pot businesses. Some have indicated they have no plans to do so. “Those are the kinds of things each one of those U.S. Attorneys will decide how to handle,” Sessions said.