As more than half of the states in the country recognize the power of cannabis and choose to legalize it in some form, the federal government still blindly claims that it has no medicinal value, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly rescinding a policy that keeps federal prosecutors from aggressively enforcing federal law in states where cannabis is legal.
The announcement is expected Thursday, according to two sources cited by a report from the Associated Press. The policy was initially put in place by the Obama Administration in 2013, acknowledging that states should be in charge of what their cannabis policy was, and how they prosecuted offenders who violated it.
Interference from the federal level was always feared in states that legalized cannabis for recreational use, because the plant is still labeled as a Schedule I drug by the federal government—despite an increasing wealth of research that has shown its medicinal value.
The sources told the AP that Sessions' policy "will let U.S. attorneys across the country decide what kinds of federal resources to devote to marijuana enforcement based on what they see as priorities in their districts." As has been the case with the War on Drugs since its inception, such a policy could be used by U.S. attorneys to target low-income cannabis users in states such as Colorado and California, while ignoring wealthy cannabis users—even though both groups were using the plant legally in their respective states.
The report noted that this change in policy on cannabis says more about the views of Sessions than it does about the views of President Trump. Sessions has been an outspoken critic of cannabis, claiming that it is violent and as dangerous as heroin. He has also said in the past that he wished the federal government would do more to fight back against states that are legalizing cannabis—now he could be getting his wish.
"We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say 'marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger," Sessions said in April 2016.