Washington marijuana advocates assess impact of Jeff Sessions’ policy change
SPOKANE, Wash. — Questions remain unanswered after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from charging people with marijuana related crimes, in states where the drug is legal for adults.
According to ABC News, the largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth by Barack Obama’s Justice Department allowed the pot business to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar industry that helps fund some state government programs.
The exact impact of the announcement remains hazy, which is why some cannabis advocates are concerned.
Justin Peterson owns three cannabis retail shops in Spokane and the Spokane Valley. He called today’s move a waste of time.
Owner of Cinder in#Spokane tells us he’s concerned about the AG Sessions move to rescind policy impacting marijuana laws, but is confident @AGOWA will serve the people and fight back. #KXLY pic.twitter.com/dfjuSKi3t9
— Ariana Lake (@arianaKXLY) January 4, 2018
Peterson said he’s concerned about future impacts to the industry. He’s not the only one who relies on his business, Cinder. He employs about 50 people between his three shops. He said despite his concerns, he believes state lawmakers will defend his rights.
“Let’s see what happens, what moves forward. Understand our state is going to protect us. Our attorney general is going to protect us and not only protect businesses, but the people’s will,” Peterson said.
In fact, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he’d do just that. In a statement, he promised to “vigorously defend the will of voters in Washington State.”
AG Ferguson response on reported action by US AG Jeff Sessions on federal marijuana policy. Read AG Ferguson and @GovInslee‘s letter to Sessions correcting Sessions’ bad information on WA marijuana law here: https://t.co/z1DY0fbnsE pic.twitter.com/i68zhtHc9A
— WA Attorney General (@AGOWA) January 4, 2018
In 2012, Washington became the first U.S. state where voters legalized recreational use of marijuana.
National advocate and Spokane County marijuana producer and distributor Kevin Oliver said Session’s decision is a political move.
Oliver serves on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and maintained that cannabis consumers, producers and business owners are in the clear still, as long as they’re following the law.
“If you are a consumer or a legally licensed marijuana business in Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, etc. and you are following the rules and you’re following state laws, you have nothing to worry about,” Oliver said.
Some public health and safety communities that support Sessions’ decision may have a different outlook for the marijuana industry though.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a non-profit organization founded by a former member of Congress and former Obama Administration drug policy advisor, issued a statement applauding the pot regulation changes.
“It’s time we put public health over profits. This is a sensible move that now must be followed up with action so we can avoid a repeat of the nightmare of big tobacco,” SAM Honorary Advisor Patrick J. Kennedy said.
According to a report by ABC News, officials wouldn’t say whether federal prosecutors would target marijuana shops and legal growers, nor would they speculate on whether pot prosecutions would increase. .
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