Jeff Sessions’ Pot Crackdown: Reactions, Predictions, and More

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rocked the world of legal cannabis Thursday by rescinding an Obama-era policy that blocked federal prosecutors from interfering with marijuana in states where pot has been legalized. The decision set the marijuana business and advocacy community abuzz and drew sharp criticism from state and federal lawmakers, including many within his own party.

First, what it does:

Thursday’s decision puts prosecutorial discretion for marijuana cases back in the hands of U.S. attorneys in the states where pot has become legal. In other words, U.S. attorneys in states like Washington, Colorado and California can decide whether or not to pursue businesses that have gotten the go-ahead from state authorities for breaking federal law.

Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner -- who opposed his state’s bid to legalize marijuana in 2012 -- was at the forefront of the ensuing criticism. He blasted the attorney general in a speech on Capitol Hill, saying it breaks a promise that he and Donald Trump made to the American people. (Politifact disputes that.)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) also slammed the decision

“The attorney general of the United States has just delivered an extravagant holiday gift to the drug cartels,” he said in a blistering statement. “By attacking the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly favor marijuana legalization, Jeff Sessions has shown a preference for allowing all commerce in marijuana to take place in the black market, which will inevitably bring the spike in violence he mistakenly attributes to marijuana itself.”

Sessions’ move could place medical and/or recreational marijuana in jeopardy across dozens of states where one or both have been legalized. That, of course, includes California.

But it could also backfire

In state capitals and op-ed pieces across the country, as well as on Capitol Hill, there was a sense that Sessions’ move had given greater urgency to a push for legalized marijuana at the federal level. Politico wonders whether Jeff Sessions inadvertently sealed legal pot’s fate with his reversal of the popular policy.

Reactions from inside the Golden State were also harsh and swift. California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said he would take the federal government to court to prevent a crackdown on California’s licensed growers and sellers, while state lawmakers began discussing legislation that would make California a so-called “sanctuary state” for pot.

Among the rare voices in California praising the decision was Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey. We’ve covered his battles with illegal pot growers numerous times in the past.

The greatest blowback for Sessions and Trump could come at the ballot box. As we have noted previously, a national consensus is shaping up in favor of marijuana, even among registered Republicans and especially among millennials. For those who oppose pot use, there is still great deference to the issue of state’s rights within sections of GOP and the country at large.

Still curious about the move and what it could mean for California and other pot legal states? Here's a roundup of aritcles on the subject:

Trump Administration Targets Recreational Pot, Placing Thousands of Marijuana Businesses in California at Risk

Why Jeff Sessions’ War on Weed Won’t Kill the Industry 

Could Sessions Go After California’s Booming Weed Industry?

 Two Steps Back: What Sessions’ Latest Move Means for Pot in America 

Trump Administration's Crackdown on Pot Sales Could Push Banks Out of Cannabis Industry

Sans Cole Memo, U.S. Attorneys Empowered to Enforce -- or Ignore -- Federal Marijuana Laws