It is too late to turn back now, however. Change in federal law, allowing for the use of, at a minimum, medical marijuana nationwide, is inevitable. Until that change occurs, though, the federal government must take a sensible approach to addressing the tension between federal and state marijuana law.
“[C]omitted to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational way[,]” the U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama administration “focused its [marijuana-related] efforts on certain enforcement priorities that are particularly important to the federal government.” That thoughtful approach came to a screeching halt when Donald J. Trump was elected president and Jefferson B. Sessions III, an ardent opponent of marijuana, became attorney general. Sessions rolled back Obama-era guidance de-emphasizing the prosecution of marijuana-related acts that complied with state law.
The departure of Sessions and the confirmation of William P. Barr as his successor present an opportunity for a much-needed reset in the federal government’s approach to state-sanctioned marijuana. To date, Barr has indicated that his Justice Department will indeed return to a more sensible approach.
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