Report: Jeff Sessions is launching a war on legalized weed

The move would strangle a multi-billion-dollar industry in its crib.

Customers shop on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in California. CREDIT: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Customers shop on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in California. CREDIT: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will soon announce a crackdown on state cannabis legalization using federal law enforcement tools, according to the Associated Press.

Sessions was long expected to make such a move. He has criticized marijuana and its users in showy terms throughout his political career. Now, the AP reports, he is tearing up the so-called “Cole memo” that ensured an uneasy truce between anti-pot feds and pro-legalization states over the past few years. Written by an Obama-era Justice Department official, the policy meant federal criminal justice resources wouldn’t be used to interfere with legalizing states so long as they prevented cannabis from spreading outside their borders.

Many thought Sessions might just rip up the Cole memo immediately upon swearing in last year. Though he showed more patience than that, Sessions signaled repeatedly that it was a matter of when and how, not if.

He sent letters — some containing factual errors — to the leaders of four states with legal cannabis markets. He asked Congress to give him permission to prosecute medical marijuana companies, targeting an even older policy of federal non-interference with cannabis patients. Even with President Donald Trump making a big show of declaring opioid overdoses a public emergency that requires new resources to combat, Sessions made clear he was not interested in the research suggesting that cannabis can be an effective tool for opioid users to break addiction cycles.


The legalization, taxation, and close regulation of adult-use recreational weed has been a massive economic boon to the handful of states that have thusfar joined the experiment. Colorado alone saw $2.4 billion in economic activity and 18,000 new jobs from cannabis in 2015.

With California’s legalization regime kicking in officially this month, the total market for legal American cannabis is projected to top $20 billion in annual sales within the next decade. All those sales generate huge tax windfalls that help fund schools and other public services — a chain of positive reactions which Sessions would now wind around the necks of states that budget in anticipation of weed revenue.

Legalization has also made the drug safer by ending black-market transactions and bringing users and growers into the light. The boom in investment and advanced industrial business practices within the cannabis realm since Colorado’s legalization experiment first launched will be a difficult thing to reverse, even for the Attorney General.

Further details on the exact nature of Sessions’ long-awaited crackdown are set to be announced by the department as early as Thursday, the AP said.