Trump Ends Obama-Era ‘Cole Rule’ That Let Legal Marijuana Flourish

by Kim Boateng Posted on January 4th, 2018

Washington, DC, USA : The Trump administration’s Department of Justice today issued a memo on federal marijuana enforcement policy which effectively ended the Obama-era 2013 ‘Cole Rule’ which has allowed legal marijuana to flourish.

Today’s memo which the Justice department called “a return to the rule of law”, rescinds “previous guidance documents” – the Cole Rule.

The Obama administration in 2013 announced it would not stand in the way of states that legalize marijuana, so long as officials acted to keep it from migrating to places where it remained outlawed and out of the hands of criminal gangs and children. Trump Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, today rescinded that memo, written by then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, which had cleared up some of the uncertainty about how the federal government would respond as states began allowing sales for recreational and medical purposes.

Since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970, Congress has generally prohibited the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana.

In the memorandum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directs all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities.

“This return to the rule of law is also a return of trust and local control to federal prosecutors who know where and how to deploy Justice Department resources most effectively to reduce violent crime, stem the tide of the drug situation, and dismantle criminal gangs”. the memo reads.

“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Therefore, today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug situation, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will roll back an Obama-era policy that gave states leeway to allow marijuana for recreational purposes.

The Obama-era ‘Cole Rule’ gave states leeway to allow marijuana for recreational purposes

The so-called Cole memo, which ordered U.S. attorneys in states where marijuana has been legalized to deprioritize prosecution of marijuana-related cases is now rescinded.

Sessions, a vocal critic of marijuana legalization, has hinted for months that he would move to crack down on the growing cannabis market.

Sessions, since taking over as head of the Justice Department, has appeared to show a harder line on marijuana. In May, the attorney general sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting they get rid of an amendment in the department’s budget that blocks the Justice Department from using federal money to prevent states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Opponents of legal marijuana on Thursday celebrated the long-awaited action.

The move is likely to put the federal government in conflict with states where marijuana is legal for recreational use. California on Monday became the sixth state to legalize recreational marijuana. Massachusetts and Maine are set to join those states later this year.

Legalization has led to a booming marijuana business in some states, where wealthy growers and even hedge funds have invested millions of dollars in production and sales.

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Kim Boateng

Kim Boateng

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